By Josh Peter, Yahoo Sports
November 10, 2006
Issues regarding the oversight, training and technology for instant replay officials remain unresolved, and that begs the question: Who is responsible for fixing this?
Roy Kramer, the former commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, said it is up to the Division I-A conference commissioners committee to establish the standards and authority to regulate the system.
Kramer, who devised the Bowl Championship Series and was a strong voice in football matters before retiring from the SEC in 2002, said the 11 commissioners have the power to improve the system.
"All of the sudden we put in instant replay without thinking of all the issues that could arise out of it," Kramer said in an interview last week. "And a standardization of that process I think is a significant issue that has to be addressed by the commissioners over the course of the next few years."
The commissioners are scheduled to meet in April during a four-day conference in New Orleans. The group also meets by conference call about every two months and could huddle during the NCAA convention in January, said Wright Waters, commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.
"Certainly all of our commissioners can weigh in and say, 'Look, we're going to have a standard.' " Waters said last week. "And then we have to go home and tell our (officiating) coordinators, 'Hey we're going to do this.' I hope we have the courage to do that."
Commissioners must direct their officiating supervisors to heed the consensus opinion because of issues with the current system. Though a national coordinator of football officiating is in place, his authority has been challenged, if not ignored.
Dave Parry, supervisor of officials for the Big Ten, serves as the national coordinator. But because Parry is affiliated with the Big Ten, several conference officiating supervisors said they feel no obligation to follow Parry's instructions.
Working together, all parties agree, the commissioners could enforce standards. But Waters said he wonders if the commissioners can reach a consensus on the important issues without the guidance of Kramer.
"For us to make the right calls on instant replay, the beginning of that is going to have to be an understanding of what the system can and can't do," said Waters, in his eighth year as commissioner of the Sun Belt. "And I'm not sure we're on the same page right now, unlike when Roy was in charge.
"Roy had great understanding of football and I think that we, in many ways, got lazy during Roy's years … because it was so easy just to look over at Roy and say, 'Roy what do you think we should do on this football issue?'
"I'm not sure we've got that authority at the table right now in football, so it would take time for all of us to gear up and get a better understanding of this."
But Rick Chryst, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference who for the past two years served as chair of the Division 1-A commissioners committee, believes the group can band together to address the issues with instant replay.
"I've been impressed by how the current group of commissioners works together and I think coming together on the new BCS structure is really significant," he said. "So I think that there's the opportunity for this group to come together as 11 on this, and I don't know that it's got to be one person that solely authors it."
Chryst said the commissioners have had preliminary talks about altering the structure of college football officiating, which currently is managed by the respective conferences. Resulting changes could empower Parry with the authority to enforce officiating issues, provide Parry with the assistance necessary to oversee instant replay matters or lead to the creation of a national officiating coordinator independent of any conference, Chryst said.
John Swofford, commissioner of the ACC and current chair of the Division I-A conference commissioners' group, could not be reached for comment.
Streamlining the technology, training and approach conferences take with instant replay will be a tall task. This season, five different video systems are being used, with some conferences opting for state-of-the-art technology and others using a basic digital video recorder.
"I see where the same equipment may be helpful, but I don't know if it's possible to get there," said Karl Benson, commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference. "Institutions and conferences have invested significant money to start up the replay system."
Benson acknowledged other inconsistencies. For example, some conferences are instructing officials to use a "slow whistle," to let a play continue rather than quickly blowing it dead. The reason: Instant replay can be used to review fumbles only if they occur before the whistle is blown and the play is called dead. So a "fast whistle" could prevent instant replay officials from reviewing the play to confirm whether a fumble took place.
Benson said he originally favored the slow whistle approach but that the WAC recently took a hard line against it.
"A couple of weeks ago, we put out an edict to our officials to officiate the game as if replay is not being used just because we did find out that sometimes you don't get the angle you need to be able to make the correct call," Benson said. "Replay was never intended to replace the officials on the field. Our officials can't rely on replay."
RUSH TO JUDGMENT?
The NCAA Football Rules Committee approved instant replay for all conferences in 2005 despite concerns.
In 2002, John Adams, secretary-editor of the NCAA football rules committee, told USA Today there would be problems unless every college used a package similar to the NFL in equipment, personnel, expertise and camera positioning. In 2004, Jim Blackwood, an NFL instant replay official and supervisor of officials for the Western Athletic Conference, said college football was in no position to implement instant replay across the board in the near future.
"I'm a replay official in the NFL and there's just not that many qualified people around," Blackwood told the Honolulu Advertiser. "Nor are there that many schools that have the necessary equipment to have what I would call a successful replay situation."
Instant replay required approval from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is charged in part with protecting the "image" of the game. But John Cochrane, commissioner of the Division III Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, said that as the panel's chair he and the other members would defer to the Football Rules Committee when it came to implementing instant replay. "They are the experts," he said.
Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said he thinks instant replay will get a "fairly favorable reaction" when he meets with the Division I coaches after the season.
"We need to come up with more ways to help people in the booth, particularly if somebody experiences a technical problem," Teaff said. "You could have a critical play out there and if they (the replay officials) can't see it, they can't overturn it.
"I think by and large, from my experience as a coach, this is moving to the direction of total fairness that we want. Is it perfect yet? Possibly not. Will it ever be perfect? Probably not."
Kramer, who said it's up to the commissioners to fix the problems, initially opposed instant replay because he thought officials were doing a good job without it. Although Kramer said he now supports replay, he chuckled at the fact there's more debate about blown calls in the booth than there is about bad calls on the field.
"The general assumption is that we would have eliminated all of this controversy," he said. "But you obviously see that there are still a lot of issues out there."
Josh Peter is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Josh a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Nov 10, 2006 9:36 am, EST