State of the Hogs: Replays

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There was a time when I carried a USGA rules book in my golf bag. In college, I was told by the golf coach to have it available at all times. Not once did I ever use it.

It's not that I don't follow the rules. I was taught from an early age not to touch the ball, hole all putts. The rules of the game are the rules of the game. You change any of them for comfort and the game ceases to be the game.

I get in trouble at times in my own house for being a stickler for rules. I almost ruined a family vacation when we stopped at a buffet on the way to Florida. I got the "pitch to you win" ticket. The rest of the family, healthier and smarter, ordered off the menu. Someone asked me to go to the buffet to get them a biscuit. I wouldn't do it. Rules are rules. No one talked to me for the next two hours except for a mention that I was over the speed limit.

The rules can be complex and hard to figure in college football. It ought to be easy now that instant replay is here. But there are still a few head scratchers. The handbook for SEC game officials just on the intricacies of instant replay is complex and difficult. There are 41 pages to learn, including 12 pages of case-by-case interpretations on what are reviewable plays, what are not.

After looking at the SEC manual, I understand why it took a few months to institute the replay in major league baseball even after the decision was made to go that route by the commissioner. It can be crazy in the SEC to understand it all.

Let's be clear, the SEC gets it right and does it in fairly quick fashion. I've thought the SEC refs, by and large, are very good and better than most conference's I've seen when watching network TV. I've always favored SEC over what we had in the old SWC. The way the replays have worked in the SEC have suited me fine.

For instance, on an onside kick try, the ball hits the ground as soon as it leaves the tee, bounding high in the air. The receiving team calls for a fair catch but the covering team whacks the man in the process of catching the ball. Officials rule kick-catch interference negating a successful recovery by the cover team and give the ball to the receiving team.

Instant replay would be able to tell that the ball hit the ground before sailing into the air and therefore interference wouldn't be possible. So what's the call: Not reviewable.

There are some simpler guidelines. Here are 11 things the replay official cannot review: Holding, offside/encroachment, pass interference, personal fouls/late hits, illegal blocks, face mask, taunting/excessive celebration, false starts, illegal formations, roughing the passer/kicker, fighting participants.

There are a ton of reviewable plays, including almost all scoring plays involving runners breaking the plane of the goal line. Included in that list is field goal attempts, but only if the ball is ruled below or above the cross bar or inside or outside the upright. Interestingly, on field goals where the ball is higher than the top of the uprights, the play can't be reviewed.

There are twists and turns all through the replay guidelines. For example, you can review a forward or backward pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage. But, if the play was ruled incomplete on the field, the play is finalized and cannot be changed.

And, most of us know this one; there can be no review after the next play starts. That's why you see coaches ask a quarterback to get a play snapped just after a questionable play.

Some don't know that the replay official reviews every play. And, he might review it from several angles even before anyone knows it. So just because they don't stop action, it doesn't mean a replay hasn't been reviewed.

How many angles may be determined by how good the TV coverage is that day. Is the game carried by CBS, ESPN, Raycom or FSN South? If that's not available, the next priority is a tape-delay production or pay-per-view production from the game. Finally, if none of those are available, the conference office will make arrangements for the needs of replay.

Either way, there are just some basics that caught me a little off guard. Foremost, the game officials on the field cannot ask for a replay if they think they may have missed something. That's not allowed, either.

I don't care for the instruction booklet key on what the referee can say. Never will he say, "We got the last play wrong, and it should have been .... "

He's got to say stuffy things like, "After review, the ruling on the field is confirmed." I didn't realize that the head coaches can have only two challenges, but only if his first challenge is successful. If he's wrong, he's charged with a timeout and done for the game. If he is out of timeouts, he can't challenge even if he hasn't challenged before.

There's a bunch of things that aren't reviewable, but are correctable. For instance, a punt returner calls for a fair catch, then runs for a touchdown. That can't be reviewed in the booth, but officials on the field can decide they were in error and change it. Anytime an official on the field decides an "egregious" error has been made, he can fix it. And, he doesn't need replay for that.

I was surprised that the spot of the ball is not reviewable if it does not involve a first down, sideline or goal-line situation. Go figure.

Why would that be in the rules? So the game would not be altered time wise in a huge way. I get all of that.

I also understand the standards held to the replay official. He must see "indisputable video evidence" to over turn a call. And, there must be "direct competitive impact" to warrant game stoppage for a review.

I just want to make sure there aren't any video cameras near the buffet lines. I know now that there may be instances where I go back for biscuits when it's against the rules.

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