February 11, 2009
Tweaks we'd like to see.
I don't have any numbers on this, but anecdotally, college football's replay problem is two-fold*: a) Way too many calls on the field are reviewed, and b) Those calls take way too long to resolve.
Both issues are mystifying, mainly because the person(s) who call for the replay in the first place and the person(s) who make the final call are the same person(s). In theory, you'd think an official starting at a monitor, deciding when to stop the action to review a play, would only make that call on plays he thought were highly likely to be overturned; otherwise, why bother? In practice, the consequence-free replay call means virtually every fumble, juggle and sideline catch has become subject to near-automatic review, and the overturn rate is something like 25 percent, even lower than in the NFL. At least half of the upheld calls after replay should have never been reviewed in the first place. It's a waste of time.
The way to solve this (and this is the only time, ever, you will read this sentence on this blog) is to adopt the NFL's system of coaches' challenges. As long as there's a penalty for rejected challenges -- loss of a timeout -- the coach's challenge cuts down on the arbitrary nature of replay ("How could they not review that?" is directed at the coach, not the official ... well, except inside of two minutes), lends a strategic aspect and helps ensure only plays that are likely to matter enough, or that are egregiously wrong enough, to risk a timeout will come under scrutiny.
The second reform is to actually impose a time limit: 60 seconds. A 90-second limit was part of the original push for review -- remember when TV actually counted down the seconds, before it became too obvious that the clock had no meaning? If the officials themselves can't be trusted to enforce the time, do it for them: Cut their feed. After a minute, the replay screen goes blank. If they can't make an "indisputable" call in 60 seconds, the call on the field should stand, anyway.
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* Actually, the problem is three-fold, but the fact that 10 to 15 percent of calls still seems ludicrously wrong even after the review is a matter of execution; "Get the calls right" is not really a suggestion, unless they're trying to get them wrong. Oh, and would it hurt to use hi-def montiors?