Instant replay expected to get NCAA nod

After further review instant replay seems headed to return to college football this fall.

The past season was the first wide-spread test of the technology, with eight of Division I football s 11 conferences using it to help officials make some tough calls. So now the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association have to make some tough calls of their own to figure out exactly what the system will look like.

Instant replay is here to stay, says Jim Muldoon, assistant commissioner for the Pac-10. His conference will hold an internal meeting to discuss how it will proceed with instant replay. The challenge now is to standardize how it s done nationally, he says.
Muldoon s conference experienced the typical ups and downs of a first-year experiment. Plenty of calls were overturned properly but a few were overturned when they shouldn t have been. Sometimes the replay doesn t show you what you need, says Muldoon.

Fixing those bad calls tops the list of things to do with instant replay. For example, some conferences, like SEC, the ACC, and the Big East, required that all games, even those not televised, had at least four cameras grabbing instant replay angles. The Pac 10 and others didn t have those sort of rules in place, instead relying on whatever cameras were being used to drive the video scoreboard.

The biggest problem is the quality of the video production [for the scoreboards], he says. Some schools have a very sophisticated program that is the same as the one doing the TV production while others might only have three cameras. As a result, the conference is contemplating setting a minimum number of cameras for instant replay.

The challenge flag

Whether or not to let coaches throw challenge flags is another tough choice for the NCAA. This year only the Mountain West let coaches were able to toss flags signaling for a review. All other conferences (with the exception of Conference USA which had a monitor on the sideline like the NFL) relied on a referee watching the game in an instant replay booth to signal whether a play should be reviewed.

It appears that if the NCAA goes one way or the other it would choose a system that doesn t involve tossing a flag. One reason is that, unlike their NFL counterparts, NCAA assistant coaches don t have video monitors in their booths. That would leave the decision to toss a flag squarely on the coaches on the sideline. And that most likely would mean making the decision based on a single instant replay that is shown on the stadium s video scoreboard.

In addition, say supporters of the non-flag system, if the true goal of instant replay is to right as many wrongs as possible the latter system allows for every play to be reviewed, if needed. And as the technology evolves the review process will only get faster.

Getting replays done quickly is important. Tim Prokup, VP of sales for XOS Technologies, one of three providers of instant replay technology for college football, says those conferences that relied on XOS gear–the Pac 10, Big 12, SunBelt, Mountain West and Big 10–were able to verify a replay on average within 92 seconds.

The XOS system uses a 19-inch flat-screen monitor with a handheld remote control that lets the referee in the Instant Replay booth toggle through the different replays. Each play is logged as a separate event so the user clicks back and forth to find the desired angle. Muldoon says the PAC 10 is happy with the XOS system. It s less sophisticated than the DVS Sports system and by and large we re happy with it, he says.
The right touch

The other popular replay system is DV Sport s Digital Replay system. The DV Sport system operates by taking in the live video and audio feed where a technician digitizes the video into the Digital Replay system. Each play and subsequent replay will appear on the touch screen, giving the replay official the chance to jump between replays.

Each clip is logged in as a thumbnail and we wanted to bring a product to the market that was designed specifically for replay, says Brian Lowe, president of DV Sport. Our system is designed to let the technician catalogue different angles for the official as they come in.

The Digital Replay system requires three people to operate it. The technician, usually a local resident, handles cataloging each play and replay as a different thumbnail. A communicator then sits between the official and the technician and works as a go-between. And lastly there is the official who watches the monitor and makes the calls.

One of the things our system offers is frame-by-frame accuracy, and that s something a Tivo can t offer, says Lowe of the third option available for replay use: the good, old-fashioned Tivo bought at the local Best Buy.

That frame-by-frame accuracy comes for a price. DV Sport s system costs around $15,000 depending on the type of monitors and other related technologies being used. But Lowe says cutting corners is something no college conference should do if the goal is truly making the right call. That means backups and backups for backups also have to be in place, he says.

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