The Football Flash: June 15, 2006

June 15, 2006

By Brian Hardy


Brian is an assistant editor for and contributes on a regular basis.
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When this year's college football season rolls around in late August, you're going to see one glaring similarity to the NFL game, as college coaches will now be allowed to challenge a call on the field for review.


Last month, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a proposal by the Football Rules Committee to allow one challenge opportunity for each team - as long as the team has an available timeout left. If the coach is successful is his challenge, the team is able to retain its timeout. But if the call on the field is upheld, the team then loses its timeout.


Last season, nine of the 11 Division I-A conferences used their own variations of an instant replay system after the NCAA had allowed conferences to adopt some form of instant replay. But now, along with the addition of a coaches challenge, the replay system used will be the same for everyone and no longer vary by conference.


"Last year, you had the flexibility to do some different things. I thought that was good on a temporary basis, but the element of having something applied standard across the board was necessary," Jim Muldoon, an Assistant Commissioner from the Pac-10 said.


Perhaps the biggest supporter of the implementation of a coaches challenge may be the Mountain West Conference, who allowed for a coaches challenge last season.


"The Mountain West is definitely in favor of it," MWC Assistant Commissioner Javan Hedlund said. "Last year, we were the only conference to implement it."


"If you look back at the numbers last year, for the most part, officials are doing a great job," Hedlund added. "It's just a matter of being able to review those egregious errors."


One obvious advantage of allowing coaches to challenge a call will be that it should prevent instances where, in the past, the determination to review a play did not come quick enough and therefore never happened. Now, a coach can challenge a play if he feels strongly enough about it as long as he has a timeout available.


There are reservations to the coaches challenge, however. Perhaps the biggest of the concerns from the coaches is that unlike in the NFL, where coaches up in the booths have television monitors in front of them - making it much easier for them to determine whether or not a play in question is worth challenging -  the college coaches don't have that luxury as a result of an NCAA rule not permitting television monitors in the booths.


Without being able to look at a monitor and determine if the play is indeed worthy of using up their challenge may make for some interesting scenarios to see what coaches will do when there is a questionable call on the field.


"It puts a lot of pressure on the coaches," Mark Womack, Executive Associate Commissioner of the SEC said. "With no television monitors in the booths, it puts a lot of pressure on the coaches not knowing when to use it."


Womack said that the coaches in the SEC are fairly split on the idea of having a coaches challenge, and according to Muldoon, the same goes for the Pac-10.


"We polled our coaches on the issue and it was split down the middle, 5-5," Muldoon said, adding that some of the coaches cited concerns about having a coaches challenge without the aid of monitors for assistants.


"They're only getting one challenge. So, particularly in a close game, I would think they're going to save that for a critical call, " Muldoon said.


UCF coach George O'Leary likes the idea of having an instant replay system, but is not in favor of having a coaches challenge.


"I think we have enough to do," O'Leary said. "In the pros, the challenge means something because it affects your timeouts since the clock doesn't stop there. Here, the clock stops so much in college ball, losing a timeout isn't a real critical thing."


While the coaches challenge has garnered some opposition and concerns, it's evident that the idea of having an standard instant replay system in place has met the approval of many, including O'Leary.


"I think it's great. Anything that can help the student-athletes or correct a mistake should be in a game," O'Leary said.



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