SEC FOOTBALL: SEC Promotes Instant Replay

One of the most noteable changes in the 2005 Southeastern Conference schedule will be the use of instant replay. The conference is following the lead of the Big Ten, who successfully integrated the system into their 2004 schedule. Southeastern Conference Coordinator of Officials Bobby Gaston addressed the media today before Florida Coach Urban Meyer kicked off Media Days with his turn at the podium.

Each SEC football stadium will have a secured replay booth equipped with DVSport Digital Replay system. Three individuals (A Replay Official, Communicator, and Technician) will be in the booth for the duration of the game. A live video and audio feed will come directly into the replay booth, without delay. Each play and subsequent replay will appear on the touch screen in front of the Communicator. As the Technician marks the incoming video, each one will appear as a small picture on the computer touch screen. At any time, the Communicator can touch on a thumbnail and immediately playback the play or replay. They are capable of putting nine different views on screen, depending on the number of cameras into a nine paneled screen. It's very similar to Hollywood Squares for those who are familiar with the show.

"We're walking on uncharted waters, so subsequently we don't know what to expect although we did practice this equipment at the Kentucky spring game and we found amazingly that we will be able to review far more players and plays than we thought we could," Gaston recalled. "We found that 7/8 of the plays, we had an opportunity to look at it twice in that 12 to 14 second dead period and make a choice as to whether or not we wanted to stop the game. So, I visualize that we will probably review at least 90 of the approximately 170 plays that are played during a game and take a look."

"We (the conference) have got five people on the field with pagers on them, similar to what you get at Outback (restaurant)," Gaston said. "When it vibrates, they'll be alerted to it, but we told them (the officials) don't put it in your crotch."

Sure, Gaston's remark was tongue in cheek. But, if they really had to tell them that, how in the world can they be mentally competent to officiate a game?

The system will not be used to reverse clock errors by officials, such as the fiasco that aided Tennessee in their victory over Florida last season. Gaston said the committee submitted the idea to the NCAA. But, the NCAA felt that using an official to look over clock management every play would require a tedious effort. Genious. My thought is why not allow the clock errors to be reversable the final two minutes of each half?

"The clock situation that happened in the Tennessee/Florida game is non-reviewable," Gaston stated. "Instant replay has actually tried to keep the people officiating the game out of the replay booth. They're only there to correct the mistake that they made. If we had to watch the clock every play and determine whether they started it properly or improperly, that's a real tedious thing I can assure you. It was felt like we don't want to get, as I say, replay team into officiating, but rather to correct the errors made and correcting the clock adjustments would be very difficult. We did submit that (to the NCAA), but the NCAA felt like that would require too much attention from the review team and they couldn't do what they wanted to do. So, for this year the only time you can have a clock adjustment is based on overturning a play."

One conference submitted fighting as a reviewable offense.

"I was against that one," he said. "It took us until Wednesday to find out who was involved in the fight between Clemson and South Carolina, and I didn't think the people would want to wait until Wednesday. The objective of instant replay is to allow the specific types of officiating mistakes to be reviewed and corrected. And the standard is that there must be indisputable evidence, video evidence, to overturn a call that's on the field. We're primarily going to review plays where, whether it's a catch or not a catch on passing plays, and whether or not the scoring play the runner broke the plane of the goal line or was out of bounds, short of it, whether a receiver was in bounds, out of bounds at the end line, things of that nature."

The system is very similar to the one used in the NFL. Gaston said the Big Ten found the system to be a huge success. He said the fans reamined calm when they realized a certain play was going to be reviewed. The SEC will use the system during scrimmages at two schools on August 13th and 20th. One school from the Eastern Division and one from the Western Division will be chosen for the final pre-season test.

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