ACC: Instant replay

The new clock rule, ACC officials

July, 22, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads was among the speakers at Tuesday morning's breakfast with the commissioner, and he went over the new rule changes for this season. The bottom line is this: There will still be about 70-76 offensive plays, but the game will be 10-12 minutes shorter.

The coaches spent much of their meeting on Monday talking about the new 40-second clock, and Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said "it's new, so it's got everybody on edge a little bit."

In time he expects everyone to like it.

"I think most of the coaches like it because it will standardize the game," he said. "In the old days, depending on what crew you got or what referee you got, the game might go really fast or really slow. Now we'll pretty much have a standard, where as soon as that ball goes out of bounds, as soon as they signal it out, that 40 seconds is going to go."

Grobe said the new rule will be tougher for offenses to get used to because the coaches and players will have to get back into position quickly. It's something the coaches started working into their practices this spring and will definitely incorporate into their fall scrimmages.

"If you're kind of hanging out on the sidelines, saying, 'Oh, what do we want to call here,' before you know it, it will start going 8, 7, 6, 5 ..." Grobe said. "You're going to have to be really careful how you manage the clock."

I spoke with Rhoads last week and went over a lot of what he addressed Tuesday, in addition to a few other topics. Every year there is turnover, which means new faces making the calls throughout the ACC.

Where does he get these guys?

It takes five years of high school officiating experience, plus five years of college football officiating experience at any level. Then in January and February of each year, he'll take your application. Rhoads has a designated senior official for each school. During the spring, prospective candidates are mixed in with veteran officials who rank their top three candidates at each of the 21 sites (Rhoads oversees the 12 ACC schools, plus Army, Navy and the Big South).

"In the spring a lot of what you're looking at are those prospective candidates," Rhoads said.
(This might explain why I've heard Ralph Friedgen complain, 'What are we paying these guys for?' during his spring scrimmages).

It's not an easy job.

"Each weekend when I'm at a game or in the command center, wherever I'm at, I walk out of there thinking, I hope we get it right," Rhoads said. "That isn't going to happen. There are always going to be mistakes. When you really evaluate the stuff, even the ones coaches submit, our observers submit or that we detect in the command center. Regardless of which, all plays are going to fall into three categories -- the coach is correct, we missed it; the coach is wrong, we got it right. And then there's that middle group, the judgment that you can argue about forever. Is it holding? Is it pass interference? Is that the right spot where the ball goes? ... The judgment that goes into it and the tough part is trying to put together each year a staff and then each week during the season consistency by the officials. What you hear most from coaches is just that -- they know that officials will make mistakes. The goal is to make very few of them."

So what gripes do coaches come to Rhoads with the most?

The two areas that prompt the most discussions are holding and pass interference calls.

"When it comes to judgment, that's where the gray area exists," he said.

And that's one thing technology will never be able to correct.

Instant replay: Additional plays under review

July, 17, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

As promised, here's a look at the additional plays that can be reviewed this season, according to Doug Rhoads. I'll wrap up the rest of my interview with him tomorrow:

• A field goal can now be reviewed if the only issue is did it go over the cross bar or inside the upright? If it's above the upright, then only the official can determine it.

"That's the position I worked; I was a backjudge," Rhoads said. "I'm under the goalpost. I'm standing under there looking up at the upright. I see that it's above the upright. I have to rule. The entire ball must be inside the line of an imaginary plane on the inside part of the pipe. So, if any part of the ball is over the pipe, it's no good. No replay is going to give you that view or establish that."

• In the past, if an official ruled a player's knee was down and then the ball came loose, that was not a fumble. When his knee was down, the play was over. Once he's down, there's no review. Now, regardless of what the official rules, if there is an immediate recovery, they can review it to make sure possession is rewarded to the right team. Replay won't happen when there's a huge cluster and officials are trying to figure out who has the ball under the pile. Only the officials can determine that. But if there's a split second when the ball comes loose, another player recovers it and the play is dead, they can review it and see whether his knee was down or not.

• At the goal line, when a player is running to get to the corner near the endzone and he leaps in the air and is close to the sideline, and the official rules he's out of bounds a foot short of the goal -- this can now be reviewed. In the past it couldn't because it wasn't a scoring play. (Well, it might have been if he hadn't been ruled out of bounds.) So now if there's that kind of play and the ball carrier was on the verge of scoring, they can stop and review it and award the score, saying no, his foot was not out before the ball crossed the plane. Or the reverse of it.

While there are certain things than can and cannot be reviewed, Rhoads said "replay can correct any egregious errors.

"If there's something that even if it wasn't reviewable by rule, but there's an egregious error -- a down is missed, whatever -- this allows egregious errors to be fixed."

Instant replay: How the ACC officials fared

July, 17, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

When Doug Rhoads came into the ACC in 1977, there were five officials working on the field. There are now seven. There were eight teams. There are now 12. They played 10 games. There are now 12, plus the championship.

He assigns 10 people to every game. The "command center" in Greensboro, N.C., has double DVRs. Every game is watched, every play is scrutinized. An intern is at each station. They log every foul, well-officiated play, poorly officiated play, coaches' conduct, players' conduct, injuries -- everything. On one weekend last year, there were six games going on simultaneously.

On top of that, each coach sends Rhoads video clips over the Internet of plays they think are questionable. (This looks like a chop block; why wasn't it called?) He takes all of the ACC video, everything the coaches have sent him, and puts together a weekly training DVD for each of his officials. By 5 p.m. Tuesday night, he's got all of the plays from the previous week and put them on a Web site for the officials.

You think you'd survive an entire season?

Here's how ACC officials fared last year, and what the toughest plays are to call:

  • Last year there were 171 stoppages. That means in all of the ACC games, there were 171 times the game was stopped for a replay.
  • Of those, 36 plays were reversed (21 percent). The others were either confirmed,  meaning there was video evidence the official was right, or the play stood as called because there was no video evidence to overturn the call.
  • The average length of time a game was stopped for review was 1:39 -- shorter than a TV timeout and below the national average of 1:46.
  • Out of all the stoppages, 40 percent (69 plays) were to figure out whether a catch was complete or incomplete, including on interceptions.
  • There were 18 out-of-bounds plays, which means over half of the plays reviewed were to determine whether the ball was inbounds and whether it was caught. Those are the toughest plays to call in football.

"I don't think officiating has gotten better, gotten worse," Rhoads said. "I think it improves because it's adult learning. These are adults and even though it's a hobby or an avocation, it's still a profession and you improve because of the technology.

"Back when I was there, it might have been the coach's film, which was terrible. We'd all be in this room, looking at a projector with a play from 100 miles away, saying, 'it looks like holding to me.'"

"In the end, replay is good. Like all officials, people were a little tentative when it first started, wondering how could somebody sitting in the TV booth up above officiate? Well, they're not officiating. That's not their role, to officiate. Their role is to reverse errors that give you indisputable video evidence. If you discuss it that way, then replay steps in and frankly does a good job. Realize we've had football for 125 years, and replay for three. Everyone is kind of feeling their way through replay. What does it mean and how does it work? It's a great concept."

Check back later for new plays that will be reviewed this season.