Sun Belt Conference Takes Bold Step in Instant Replay with XOS Digital

During his annual All-Star Game press conference, commissioner Bud Selig hinted that video-review technology would continue to expand across Major League Baseball. FIFA recently approved goal-line technology, announcing it will be put in place in time for the 2014 World Cup. Officials’ use of instant replay continues to grow across the entire sports spectrum, and for college football, it is about to take the next step.

XOS Digital is providing the Sun Belt Conference with the first conference-wide multichannel replay system in high-definition for college football. The system will grant the conference’s officials access to all of the cameras available in the stadium for their own use to review disputed calls. It promises to streamline the workflow and make replay in the Sun Belt more accurate and efficient.

“Every time the subject of instant replay comes up, the argument is always that it is going to slow the game down,” says Randall Malone, replay services manager at XOS Digital. “So our goal was to try and find ways to help get the call right and do it in a speedy manner.”

The multichannel system, which will be implemented in time for the start of the upcoming college football season, replaces the single-channel system the conference had previously been using in which just one video feed – the broadcast-television feed – was available to the officials. It left them at the mercy of the broadcaster. With the multiple-channel system, the Sun Belt will have its own access to every camera in the stadium, in addition to some cameras that will be positioned strictly for officials use (for example, pan-and-tilt robotic cameras positioned on the goal lines).

“We think that this is where [the industry] is going,” says Malone. “The referees all want to have access to all of the cameras themselves rather than rely on TV to send them the feed. So this is where it will eventually go.”

The conference’s transition from standard definition to the XOS HD Replay system will provide the other obvious benefit of granting officials the opportunity to work with a higher video quality when making reviews. After Sun Belt administrators came to XOS looking to develop the multichannel system, the company developed it using the core multichannel technology found within its Hurricane slow-motion instant-replay system, which is typically used by college teams for in-venue live production.

The creation of the system now makes the Sun Belt Conference the first, and only, college football conference to currently use a multichannel replay system for on-field official reviews.

“It’s really exciting,” says Travis Llewellyn, assistant commissioner/electronic media at the Sun Belt Conference. “We have a very good relationship with a lot of the other conferences and in talking to people. I can see the day in the next couple of years where someone is going to come out with an eight-channel HD system, or we have a 10-channel HD system. I think that’s where the technology is going. It’s neat that we’re doing this, but I think that it’s more exciting to see what else happens down the road.”

Training for Sun Belt replay officials is scheduled to begin next week. The conference office is also planning to conduct conference calls with schools to discuss infrastructure needed to implement the system appropriately. There will also be online training course for all instant replay technicians and a representative from XOS will be on-site at each of the conference member’s first home games using the system.

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