ACC fans seemed louder than usual this past season about the officiating, and there were several games in which it boiled over into discussions the following week. I asked ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads how many times league officials got calls wrong in 2011. Rhoads didn't give me specific numbers, but what he did provide revealed that the majority of the time, ACC officials got it right.
"ACC officials this past season have been involved in observing nearly 14,000 plays and there is a constant process to ensure we 'get them right,'" Rhoads wrote in an email. "Misses do occur and there are between 100-200 of these plays that contain verifiable errors (.014%) … although judgment calls receive the most attention, as we are after consistency.'"
It would be interesting to compare those numbers with other conferences. If I get that information, I'll be sure to pass it along.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how the evaluation process works, here are some facts you should know:
The entry-level official in the ACC typically has 15+ years of experience.
There is an ACC observer in attendance at each game and every game is monitored and recorded at the ACC game day operations center. (I have toured this center, and you guys would be very impressed at how high-tech it is.)
After a thorough evaluation and review, every foul is graded and the scores are then converted to ratings that comprise every official’s annual performance rating. These ratings are then used as the basis for post-season assignments and retention for the following season. There is an average turnover of approximately six-seven officials every season. (This includes retirements and dismissals).
Every coaching staff submits any plays they question each week. Rhoads reviews them and responds to the coach directly. Typically a coaching staff will submit between 6-8 plays each week from a game (there is an average of about 150 plays per game). Those plays, along with those selected by the ACC's observer/evaluator at each game, and those detected at the game day command center, form the foundation for a weekly training video that is provided to all coaches and officials.
An official that has a misapplication of the rules can receive a suspension and an official with an inordinate number of mistakes can be dismissed.
Rhoads gets the final word:
"Officials, just as coaches and players, are human," he said. "All three groups make mistakes occasionally and all are fully accountable. Given the speed of the game and the complexity of the rules, the official’s decisions must be made instantly. However, our goal, just as that of coaches and players, is to strive to improve, learn from any mistakes, and continue to work hard for consistency and accuracy. I can assure you they receive a high standard of review and accountability particularly with the scrutiny and technology involved in today’s game."