ACC: Doug Rhoads
RALEIGH, N.C. -- As the final whistle sounded in Clemson’s sluggish 26-14 win over NC State on Thursday night, the entire officiating crew sprinted off the field and into a waiting maroon minivan, whisked away into the dark night.
Know who else was happy to escape Raleigh? Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who opened his postgame news conference by saying, “Glad to get that one over. We can’t load the buses up soon enough.”
No. 3 Clemson (3-0) kept its national championship hopes intact thanks to one huge momentum shift involving said referees. Clinging to a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter, Clemson watched as NC State receiver Bryan Underwood blazed 83 yards down the sideline like track superstar Usain Bolt, crossing into the end zone as the Carter-Finley Stadium crowd erupted.
One official signaled touchdown in the end zone.
Except another official whistled the play dead, believing Underwood had stepped out of bounds. Because of that whistle, the play was not reviewable. Underwood dashed down that sideline with such speed, it was hard to tell whether he had, indeed, stepped out of bounds in real time. Screen grabs zoomed into Underwood’s cleats showed he might have been out.
NC State instead got the ball at the Clemson 47. Three plays later, Vic Beasley sacked Pete Thomas and forced a fumble that Spencer Shuey recovered. Five plays after that, Tajh Boyd threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant, setting the Tigers on their way to the win.
Of course, each coach had a different view of the Underwood play.
“That was right in front of me,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “He wasn't out of bounds. Unfortunately, they blew it dead, so we couldn't review it. It cost us some points, but you have to move on from that.”
NC State could not move on. The play deflated the energy in the crowd, and the Wolfpack on the field, too. To that point, the game was right there for them to take, giving some flashbacks to what they did to Florida State last season and Clemson in 2011.
Much like the game against the Tigers in 2011, the NC State defensive front befuddled Boyd for the first half. NC State led 7-6 in the second quarter before Clemson scored just before halftime to go up 13-7. Still, the normally high-powered Tigers offense chugged into halftime looking like it needed an entire overhaul.
The third quarter did not begin much better for Clemson, with two three-and-outs to start. But then came the Underwood play. Then, the Beasley sack and strip. Swinney called it “the spark that got us going.”
“The defensive players depend on me to make big plays,” Beasley said. “[They say], ‘Vic, come on, you gotta get there.’”
The response from Beasley?
“Alright guys, I got you,” Beasley said. “I know what the guys are expecting from me.”
In the same way, the offense relies on Boyd to get the offense going. He did not play his best first half. But when he saw what Beasley did, he knew he had to lead his team down the field for a score.
“A field goal wasn't enough in that situation,” Boyd said. “I love field goals, but we want to score touchdowns when we step out on that field. That's just our job.”
Boyd hit Bryant for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 26-7 lead that put the game permanently out of reach.
Shortly after, a staffer came to where ACC coordinator of officiating Doug Rhoads had been sitting in the press box. Rhoads had left his seat after the Underwood play and went down to the field. The staffer packed up Rhoads’ belongings and quietly walked away.
Clemson walked away, too, this time unscathed.
“I think a lot of people were looking for us to have a letdown game or 'Clemsoning' type of game, but I'm confident in the type of team we have. I'm confident in the type of players we have,” Boyd said. “The coaching staff does a great job. Again, it wasn't perfect by any means. It wasn't pretty by any means, but you gotta love going on the road and getting a win.”
Earlier this week, ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads "casually mentioned" to a roomful of media that he would have penalized South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for targeting after his now-famous hit in the Outback Bowl last season.
one of the most controversial calls of the season:
"I'm part of the rules committee, and they showed that hit, and everybody agreed it was a clean hit," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "So if that guy [Rhoads] is officiating one of our games, hopefully he's going to be reprimanded before then."
"That guy," was a special agent in the FBI for 26 years. He was a back judge for 30. Now he's head of officiating for 14 schools in the ACC. He knows a thing or two about officiating. And he's not the only one who would have tossed Clowney:
Former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira: “If I’m an official, based on ‘when in doubt,’ he’s out. He’s ejected. And when that goes to replay there’s no way they overturn it. There’s a great potential that hit causes an ejection this year.”
Pereira to SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey at Big 12 media days: “When you look at the play by the NFL rules of the runner vs. the tackler, I think it would be [an ejection]. That’s where the danger lies. You take what’s perceived to be a great play and it turns into a penalty and an ejection…. Remember what you’re dealing with in targeting. It’s the crown of the head. Not simply the helmet, but the crown of your head [points to top of his head]. Not the forehead. You’re looking for a guy hitting who is looking at the ground.”
The NCAA opened the door for these debates with its new rule, stating that players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders will be automatically ejected.
You make the call. Cast your votes now.
Here are several of particular note that could impact teams this season. ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads spent time going over these changes with coaches during the spring meetings, and took some time to explain them for this post. These changes were made to help create more player safety.
1. Helmet comes off. This is big change that Rhoads spent the most time going over with the coaches. If a player's helmet comes off, he must leave the game for the following down. The only exception to the rule is if the helmet comes off as a result of a penalty (face mask, for example). If the ball carrier's helmet comes off, the play must be whistled dead immediately. No more running into the open field without a helmet.
If a player who is not the ball carrier loses his helmet, he must stop playing. He cannot make a tackle, continue blocking or running a route, for example. If he continues prolonged participation without a helmet, he will be whistled for a 15-yard penalty. There is some gray area here. One example mentioned -- what if an offensive lineman loses his helmet while blocking somebody coming after the quarterback? Does he stop playing to allow the end to go after the quarterback unimpeded? The key will be determining what "prolonged participation" is.
There is one more part to this rule change. With less than 1 minute remaining in either half, if the ball carrier's helmet comes off, and that is the only reason the play is being whistled dead, there is also a 10-second runoff. If a team has a timeout remaining, the coach can elect to use the timeout instead of running 10 seconds off the clock. But the player must still leave the field for one play, unless his helmet comes off as the result of a foul. Here is your ultimate nightmare hypothetical: Let's say 9 seconds are left in a game, and your team is driving. The ball carrier's helmet comes off, and the play is whistled dead. Your team has no timeouts left. Officials must announce the game is over by rule.
Last year, helmets came off an average of twice per game. Averaged out over the course of a season and you get a helmet coming off near 200 times. All of this is being done to make sure coaches, players and equipment managers do their due diligence to ensure helmets are secured properly, and to protect players in the event their helmets do come off.
2. Kickoffs. They move to the 35-yard line now. If there is a touchback, the ball is moved to the 25-yard line, up from the 20. The hope is for more touchbacks on kickoffs in order to avoid many of the jarring hits that injure players. But kicking teams may elect to squib it to try to pin a team inside the 25. Receiving teams may decide to run out of the end zone anyway, even with the extra five-yard cushion.
One rule change to the formation -- 10 players on the kicking team must have one foot on or inside the 30 in order to cut down on running starts.
On onside kicks, any player on the receiving team is given the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven into the ground and bounces into the air.
Rhoads' official statement was, "After my review of the play, I did not see any indisputable video evidence to overturn the call on the field. The philosophy of the NCAA instant replay rules are based on the assumption the call on the field is correct — and it can be changed only upon the high standard of INDISPUTABLE VIDEO EVIDENCE.”
Here are the official numbers for instant replay in the ACC:
Games with no stoppages: 10
Plays reviewed with stoppage: 176 ( down 39 from last season)
Plays reversed: 46 (25%)
Coaches' challenges: 16
Successful coaches' challenges: 3
Average review time: 1:20
Average game length: 3 hours, 11 minutes
Breakdown of plays reviewed by type of play:
" Catch/No Catch (36%)
" Scoring play (24%)
" Fumble/No Fumble (13%)
(Note: Rhoads said 73% of all stoppages are the three aforementioned types of plays — this has been true for all six seasons of replay nationally — obviously these are the most difficult plays for officials.)
"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."
All targeting and helmet contact fouls must be reviewed by conference office per NCAA rules whether there’s a disqualification or not. ACC Associate Commissioner Michael Kelly and Director of Football Officials Doug Rhoads will review the play in question and determine if further penalty is necessary. No further penalty is required, but it must be reviewed. This must be done before Monday’s practice.
The only definitive suspension for the following game is when a player is ejected for fighting.
Turns out the call was correct, and more importantly, it's one of the calls in the rule book that is a foul when in question. Rhoads told me that defenseless players cannot be hit above their shoulders by any part of a defender's body, and after watching the replay, he saw Greg Reid's shoulder hit Scott just under the chin. That's illegal and he said it was the correct call.
The late hit on Christian Ponder? Now that one, he said, was questionable.
"We believe DVSport's HD Replay system enhances the officials' review process for every play and provides a seamless system that accurately supports the on-field officials,” ACC coordinator of football officiating Doug Rhoads said in a prepared statement. “The clarity provided by the use of high-definition video will enhance our officiating program and ensure we remain out in front of any technology that makes our game day product better for everyone.”
And, yes, they'll be talking about the upcoming TV contract, and they'll be asked about the possibility of expansion in college football, among other things.
About half of their time this morning will be spent on informational reports, including yearly reports from ESPN, Raycom, ISP Radio, BCS, the ACC championship game and ACC Hall of Champions.
The other half of time will be solely group discussion on topics the coaches submit, including an early signing date (it comes up ever year), staff sizing proposals from the AFCA (they talked about inflated staffs last year) and whatever else they wish to talk about (how much they love the ACC blog, I'm sure).
On Tuesday, the coaches will have time to meet with the athletic directors and also to meet with coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads to speak about officiating. I'll post or link to whatever news develops this week, with the TV contract being at the forefront of discussions. Stay tuned.
"I think it's the right thing for them to do to admit the error was made, and hopefully from it a similar error will not be made," O'Brien said. "It's crucial for us at that point in the football game -- it's the middle of the third quarter, it's a 24-14 game, it's a situation that with all the young kids and inexperience we have on defense those kids are fighting for their life. We come out of the locker room knowing we're going to get the football. We go down the field and score. We talked about doing that, we talked about the defense getting the stop and getting the ball back for us, which they did, but they really didn't because we weren't given that opportunity. It was a huge play in the game and devastating for this football team, so I hope someone learns from it, and it doesn't happen again."
It won't help O'Brien now, but anyone who saw that play could tell it was a fumble on the replay. The ACC officials have made a few headlines this year, but once the final statistics come out at the end of the season, they'll show the crews got far more right than they did wrong. Of course, it's the ones they got wrong that fans and coaches remember. Like O'Brien said, the point of these evaluations after the fact is so the mistakes don't happen again.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Hello from the posh Grandover Resort, where I'm sitting in the Commissioner's forum listening to John Swofford answer questions from the media.
He's been asked about a variety of topics so far, including the BCS, the SEC's latest television contract and how that will affect the ACC competitively, and how the conference is regarded nationally. Associate commissioner Michael Kelly spoke briefly about the the ACC championship game being in Tampa again, and coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads spoke about the rules changes which I reported back in May from the ACC spring meetings. I'll break down the highlights for you in a bit, in addition to a few notes from the player interviews which are also today.
I'm not expecting any SEC-like drama here, this is usually a relatively quiet event, though there is a record turnout here for media members. It's literally up the street from ACC headquarters, so it's in a good location for members of the Carolina media to make the trip. The players have been milling about, and I heard NC State defensive end Willie Young was going to try and sneak in some fishing before he answered any questions today. (Rumor has it he was going to throw a line into a pond on the golf course, even if he got hit with a ball in the process). So we'll see how that goes. Check back later for more.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- There was a bit of concern when two new clock changes were implemented last season, but after further review, they shortened the game without negative results.
Last year the play clock was changed to 40 seconds. The moment a play ended, the official put his hand up, 40 seconds went on the clock and the offense could snap it. In the past, the referee designated when it was ready for play and there was a 25 second clock. There were different paces. The change eliminated that. The teams determined the pace, but made it a consistent play clock. It sped the game up because teams weren't waiting on officials.
The second change made last year was to the clock when the ball went out of bounds. In years past, the clock didn't start until the next snap. Now, when the offical inbounds the ball and puts it on the hashmark, the clock starts immediately (other than the last two minutes). It eliminated more dead time. The fear from the coaches, though, was that it would eliminate plays, too. ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads said the games were shortened by an average of 12 minutes and only lost an average of nine offensive plays. That's about one play per team per quarter.
"It didn't impact the loss of plays, it did speed the game up so I think it did what we wanted," Rhoads said. "It didn't alter what the game looked like but it sure made it quicker, and that was the goal."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Here's a fun note for you from Doug Rhoads, the ACC's coordinator of officials.
Teams no longer have to wear their white uniforms in games, as long as both teams agree to it, in writing, before the game.
So if Maryland wants to wear red uniforms at North Carolina, and the Tar Heels want to wear navy blue, it's OK, as long as they both agree to it. This took off after both Southern Cal and UCLA decided to wear their colored jerseys against each other.
The whole reason teams had to wear white and colored uniforms was because of the old black and white TVs.
Another rule change for 2009 will be the definition of the tackle box. It's now 5 yards from the center of the offensive line formation. This will help both the referee and the quarterback determine whether it's OK for the quarterback to throw the ball away or if it's intentional grounding.
They've also added that it's a 15-yard penalty if a player is tackled by his chinstrap. (I've seen the facemask tackle, but never the chinstrap. Neither has Rhoads.) Basically, defenders can't tackle opponents by grabbing the inside of their helmet opening.
One other tweak to the rules is that it's not an illegal formation to have less than seven players on the line. The thinking is, why penalize a team for being at a disadvantage? As long as there are five players with jersey numbers 50-70 (you know, the offensive linemen), it's acceptable. They'd like to see seven on the line of scrimmage and four in the backfield.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Uh oh. (Ryan) Houston, we have a problem. The top three headlines in today's Raleigh News & Observer were all about Duke and Carolina basketball. Let's focus, people, focus. We've got some football left to play here.
Besides, UNC football has enough distractions this week. Like, say, Tennessee.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson knows his team is going to get whistled for a chop block, he just doesn't know when. In the process of airing out a few grievances about this with ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads, Johnson earned himself an invitation to tell ACC officials all about chop blocks.
Miami's progress might not be as fast as some fans would like, but the Canes are a heck of a lot better off than they were last year. Don't watch their game against Virginia Tech, though, without a little Wild Turkey.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Usually, when a team travels for a nonconference game, the visiting conference uses its own officials.
That won't be the case this weekend, when an SEC crew will officiate Miami's game against Florida in Gainesville.
"I don't know when that happened," Miami coach Randy Shannon said with a laugh. "I wasn't head coach when that deal was cut."
Doug Rhoads, the ACC's coordinator of officials, told me those decisions are made based on the language of the contract, which is determined by the athletic directors. In some cases -- like this one -- that results in a change of the normal officiating pattern. Not only wasn't Shannon head coach when this "deal was cut," but new Miami AD Kirby Hocutt -- who has been in his office for about two months now -- probably wasn't in on it, either.
Not that Shannon is losing any sleep over it.
"It is what it is," he said. "I can't do anything about it. Officials are officials to me. The guys are going to do a great job because they know it's a big game on ESPN. They do a tremendous job.
"I can't sit up there and be worried about officials. They're human, they're going to make mistakes. I'm going to tell you that right now -- they're going to make mistakes. But you know what? You have to accept what it is and keep going."