SEC officials like instant replay

The NCAA is making a move to require all conferences to adopt instant replay in college football.

Most coaches favor it; Pete Carroll of Southern Cal is one of the exceptions.

And most officials favor it. Just ask Rocky Goode and Gerald Hodges, two local residents who have officiated in the SEC for more than a dozen years.

``I'm all for it – anything we can use to correct a play and get it right,'' Hodges said.

Goode said he felt the first year of replay in the SEC went well.

``I think it was very, very successful,'' Goode said. ``That doesn't mean we didn't have some glitches because we know we did, but for the first year out of the chute, it was very good.''

Of the 77 games involving an SEC game, 40 had at least one stoppage for review. (Keep in mind all plays are reviewed but only those that can't be decided in 10-12 seconds are stopped for review). Of the 66 plays stopped for review, 17 were overturned. In Goode's crew, only one play was reversed in 12 games.

Thus, of more than 11,500 plays involving SEC teams, only 17 calls were altered.

Hodges said he welcomes replay because the ultimate goal is to get the call right.

``There's nothing worse than going home Saturday night or finding out Sunday morning that you made a (bad) call that could affect the outcome of a game,'' Hodges said. ``That's absolutely the worst feeling in the world.''

Hodges said replay did not cause him to become hesitant in making calls.

``You don't have time to think about it,'' Hodges said. But he did say an official might delay his call a split second on an interception or fumble because the worst thing a ref can do is have a quick whistle.

Hodges and Goode believe the NCAA will adopt a unified replay system instead of allowing conferences to have their own. Nine conferences had replay and about five different systems were used. The Sun Belt and WAC did not have replay. Yet, some Sun Belt and WAC officials called bowl games using replay, which was unfair to the officials, unwise of the NCAA to assign them to bowls and unpopular with fans who witnessed glaring mistakes.

One suggestion has been to give a coach one challenge per half so he won't have to exhaust a timeout when he feels stoppage for replay is necessary.

Bobby Gaston, SEC supervisor of officials, wanted fans to be educated to replay and urged the media to help in this regard.

``It's really an education for everybody,'' Goode said. ``Coaches need to be educated, too.''

On other topics:

* Football officials rarely penalize coaches, unlike basketball refs, who regularly call technical fouls on coaches.

``I'm usually quite close to the coaches,'' said Hodges, a linesman. ``There's a little more leeway with football coaches. We try to answer their questions in a very professional manner. We will not debate them on a call.

``One thing we do, we give a sideline warning. We throw a flag and stop the game. When we first throw the flag, the coach wonders if it will be a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty or a sideline warning. Typically, one sideline warning pretty much takes care of that.''

Said Goode: ``When you reach a level of tolerance with that coach, you say, `Coach, would you like to repeat what you just said?' If he does, he may get a flag dropped on his feet. If he doesn't, he knows he's reached the refs' point of tolerance.'' Goode said Steve Spurrier at South Carolina was the ``nicest'' he's ever been. * Goode said holding could be called on every play.

So, when do you call it?

``When it's a takedown or has a direct affect on the play, then we call it,'' Goode said. ``You have to use common sense. Hopefully, we do a pretty good job of catching the holds at the point of attack.''

* Gaston said he would like to see all blocks below the waist eliminated.

Goode agrees.

``It would make it more defined,'' Goode said. ``Right now, blocking below the waist is illegal except in the rectangular zone or free blocking zone.

``Probably 70-80 percent of injuries are caused by legal low blocks. … The only thing accomplish by blocking low is to injure the other player. Block them high and eliminate low blocks. I totally agree with that.''

* The rulebook says the offensive team cannot aide the runner, but it happens all the time. Yet, it's seldom – if ever – called. Why?

``He could be legally blocking the pile,'' Goode said.

Hodges said he's never called it and never seen it called.

``Aiding the runner is strictly there to keep a bigger lineman from pushing someone over the goal line,'' Hodges said. ``You have to decide if he's blocking a defensive man who happens to be trying to tackle the runner. Then, he's committing a legal block. There's a fine line.''

* Why is there so much inconsistency on calling a ``celebration'' penalty? Because some conferences emphasize it and others don't.

``It's a team sport,'' Goode said of the reason for the rule, ``and that's what the NCAA is trying to maintain. The rule book has 21 acts you can call for unsportsmanlike conduct. We don't have a lot of leeway.''

Still there are judgments to be made, and the call on the Vanderbilt receiver in the Florida game bordered on being ridiculous.

* The NCAA no longer has the ``halo'' rule, meaning the receiver of a punt had about a 2-yard cushion to catch the ball.

Now, a punt returner must be given room to ``complete the catch,'' then he's fair game. If he signals for a fair catch and muffs the ball, he's afforded protection to complete the fair catch. If there is no fair catch and he muffs the ball, he's fair game, Hodges said.

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