ACC fans will see more men in stripes this football season
Posted July 25
I respect a person who can admit a mistake. ACC Supervisor of Officials Doug Rhoads admits to 81 mistakes last season. But here’s the thing: his officials made those mistakes over the course of more than 20,000 plays. So let’s do the math. It is still too high for this former special agent in the FBI.
Eighth official joins the crew
ACC coaches voted unanimously to add an eighth official for conference games this year. Rhoads, who recalls seeing crews of five officials back during his playing days, believes expanding from seven to eight officials will improve the management of ACC games.
Rhoads expects the extra official will help crews more effectively handle today’s hurry-up offenses. ACC teams combined for more than 200 plays in a couple of games last year. Now there will be an additional official to help spot the ball, allow substitutions and hold up play while the defense is given a chance to react to the substitutions. Oh, and now there will be one more pair of eyes on the quarterback.
Passers get additional protection
Beginning this fall, college football will follow the NFL by adding a new rule to protect passers. From now on, if a player is in a passing posture, with one or two feet on the ground, a defender cannot make forcible contact with the passer at or below the knee. A player is excused if he gets pushed into the passer. Otherwise it’s a 15-yard penalty. The player would not be ejected for this offense, but it’s not reviewable.
Targeting turnovers more complete
Meanwhile, also new for 2014, the much-talked-about targeting penalty brought in last year will be modified.
Remember: when targeting is called, the offending player is ejected, and the play gets reviewed.
Last year there was confusion, because a number of times the replay booth ruled targeting did not occur and overturned the call, sort of. The player was then reinstated into the game; however, the 15-yard penalty stood.
The 2014 rule change will allow for the entire penalty to be overturned if targeting is not confirmed by replay, unless the targeting occurred during the commission of a second foul, such as roughing the passer or a late hit out of bounds.
The targeting penalty is also a player safety measure, banning hits above the shoulder against nine types of defenseless players, and also banning any hits where the defender leads with the crown of his helmet.
Targeting was called 92 times nationwide last year and overturned 30 times.
Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of officiating, expects to see fewer targeting calls in 2014. “It will be coached out of the game,” Redding predicts, much as clipping was coached out of the game one and two decades ago.
Rhoads, by the way, counts six missed targeting calls among the 81 mistakes made by ACC officials in 2013.
Replay really making an impact
Instant replay may have appeared threatening to those who make the calls in some sports, but Rhoads loves the way it has been assimilated into college football. In the ACC, replay was used 210 times in 2013. It overturned 49 calls, about one in five.
Rhoads applauds the fact that the average replay took just a little more than a minute. Fifteen reviews took 25 seconds or less. Of the plays that were overturned, he notes, “That’s 49 things I didn’t have to deal with on Sundays.”
Technology has helped video rule in ACC football. Every game is downloaded onto an iPad and reviewed by one of Rhoads’ supervisors. Officials who work on Saturday receive a complete evaluation and grade by the following Thursday, and ultimately will see highlight clips of the good and the bad. Rhoads understands an occasional error in judgment, but says an official who makes more than one phantom call (calling something he thought he saw but didn’t) probably won’t return the following year.
College football’s replay system is not perfect, in my view. It is limited by the resources of the network producing the game telecast. Some lower-budget productions may have just three or four camera angles, and their sometimes less-skilled operators may miss a play.
The replay official does have the benefit of a high-definition monitor, but it’s not a large monitor (20-something inches). I occasionally have the feeling my view at home is better than that of the replay official. Certainly my monitor is much bigger than his. That said, instant replay and improvements in officiating, have made college football a better game.