AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – It’s no secret the ACC has had a few officiating gaffes that have drawn national attention. To try to make improvements, the league hired its first coordinator of replay officials earlier this year.
Another change might be on the way.
Now that the NCAA football rules committee has permitted centralized replay on an experimental basis in 2016, ACC coaches want to give it a try. Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team lost to Miami last season after replay officials notoriously botched the end of the game, said, “I think that’s probably as important as anything that we really got done from an officiating standpoint.
“The NFL model is working, and you’ve got better equipment, you’ve got more experience, more eyes; I don’t think it’s going to be a drastic change. But if it gets one thing right, I think that’s critically important.”
The NFL uses centralized replay, where officials in a command center in New York have the ability to overturn calls in games. The ACC athletic directors have not yet ruled on whether they will go forward with centralized replay. And even if they do, there is no real consensus on how it would work. Centralizing replay is not as simple as hooking up a monitor at the ACC offices in Greensboro, N.C., and overturning bad calls. A financial investment would have to be made to make sure every school has the appropriate equipment to make sure everything works the right way.
Though ACC coaches want a centralized system, much of their discussion was centered on figuring out how it all would work.
“We just didn’t understand how it would operate,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “Is one person responsible for overseeing every [game]? Is there a centralized identity that overrules the on the field or in the box guy or is it going to be different people and how qualified are they? What kind of information are they getting?”
Under one idea discussed, replay officials in a centralized location would monitor only a few select schools without the ability to change calls. Rather, the officials would note when a call should have been overturned so the conference office has a better idea about how often centralized replay would alter calls or game outcomes. Then a decision could be made about whether centralized replay is worth the extra financial investment.
Many of those details have yet to be hammered out. But in theory, coaches want to be sure officials are being given every opportunity to make the right calls.
“You’ve got a replay guy at every game, but occasionally maybe somebody at a central place needs to be able to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute here,’” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “At the end of the day, you just want to get it right. That’s the bottom line. Everybody can live with that. There’s always going to be human error, and everybody has conspiracy theories and all that type of stuff, but I still believe people are good. Maybe I’m an old-school guy. People are good. People want to get it right.
“There’s going to be an incredible amount of scrutiny regardless of what you do, like there is now. But I don’t think it’s bad thing to have a central command like the NFL. They’ve had good success with it. There may have been four or five times at the most where maybe the command people might have had to step in this year, but those four or five times this year is a big deal. It’s a big deal to the programs, the fan bases and so forth. Whatever you’ve got to do to get it right, that’s what we should do.”
Perhaps the answer lies in hiring better on-site replay officials or doing a better job training on-site replay officials. The new ACC replay officials coordinator is tasked with year-round training, development, evaluation and recruitment and will watch games from the ACC command center in Greensboro.
And though the majority of ACC coaches want some form of greater oversight from a centralized location, a few don’t know whether that plan will change anything drastically.
“When you’re at the site, you’re part of the game, you’re able to get right on the headset with the official on the field,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “You hate to have something done off-site when they’re not even at the game … . Replay’s worked out good, but you’re always going to have that question whether they can overturn it or not overturn it.”