Ferentz: No Qualms About Instant Replay

Aug. 4, 2004

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CHICAGO — The Big Ten’s coordinator of officials, Dave Parry, outlined the conference’s plan for an instant replay system Wednesday at the league’s media day. Officials will completely implement the system for the 2004 season, after a study last season yielded positive results.

According to Parry, the Big Ten compiled data on nearly 11,000 plays over 68 games and found that nearly two-thirds of all games would have no reviews, which is about the same rate of review as the NFL. The study also showed that questionable calls would be overturned by review almost half of the time.

The Big Ten’s system will be a “tweak” on the NFL’s old system, which was first implemented in 1986. And unlike current NFL practice, the league’s system will not be at a coach’s discretion but only initiated by a technical advisor who would be watching live television feed of the game in the press box.

When a questionable call is made on the field — under certain restrictions — the advisor in the booth will signal to the on-field officials that he is reviewing the play. Officials will then stop the activity on the field and wait for a ruling by the technical advisor, who will have the final determination regarding the play.

“Our bottom line is justice. Let’s get it right,” Parry said. “The irony of officiating is that no one remembers the accurate calls that you make, they just remember the ones that you miss. There is nothing worse than finding out, an hour after the ball game, that you missed a critical play.”

Advisors cannot review on-the-field calls involving physical foul calls like holding, clipping or pass interference, as can be done in NFL. But the advisors can rule on setting the clock and whether a player had stepped out of bounds.

And unlike in the NFL, there is no time limit to the length of the review and no team will be penalized a timeout if a ruling is against them, as only the advisor can trigger a review.

“We’re all on the same page. It’s not going to be an intrusive process. It’s not extensive, but it’s a great start. And we’ll see what comes out of this season.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

Despite the lack of a time limit on the review, Parry says that the length of the game will probably not be adversely affected. The coordinator of officials said that the Big Ten is ahead of the national average in game length — Big Ten games average three hours and 15 minutes, while the national average is three hours and 19 minutes.

“If we only have one or two replays every so often, we are not going to extend the length of the game significantly beyond what it is now,” Parry said. “We are still leading the pack toward having a nice, quick, spiffy football game, near three hours long.”

Parry said that the technical advisors have more than 100 collective years of experience as game officials and have been employed by the Big Ten for 55 years cumulatively. And the technical advisors must also have “indisputable video evidence” before they overturn a call on the field after review.

“If there is any question or any doubt,” Parry said, “the call will stand as made by the officials. It has to be the type of play where, if 100 people were looking at it, all 100 would say, ‘Hey, that’s not a touchdown.'”

For the coaches in attendance at the media day, the rule change — effective only on an experimental basis for one year — is a long anticipated change that will help correct often game-critical officiating mistakes.

“I commend our league for taking the lead on something like this,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “I think it’s a measure that will help college football, as much as things are at stake each game. If we can correct [a game-changing error], and get it right, then I think it’s certainly worth it. Just to correct mistakes and get the game called in the proper way puts all of us at ease.”

“Our bottom line is justice. Let’s get it right.”
Dave Parry, Big Ten Coordinator of Officials

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he doesn’t have any qualms about the new system, and said that all the Big Ten coaches were in unanimous agreement.

“We’re all on the same page,” Ferentz said. “It’s not going to be an intrusive process. It’s not extensive, but it’s a great start. And we’ll see what comes out of this season.”

Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com