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Friday, January 30, 2009
Checking in with Bill Carollo, Part II

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second half of my interview with new Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo. For Part I, click here

When you were talking with [former Big Ten coordinator of football officials Dave Parry] throughout last year, were you going over mistakes every week to give you a reference of what might come up?

Bill Carollo: Dave has been very open, very transparent and very helpful during the transition. I had worked with Dave in the NFL and known him for a long time and had the utmost respect for him. So we did talk on a weekly basis, not so much on every play and every mistake, but if something made the papers or something was going to hit the papers, he and I probably talked about it. We talked about how he was going to handle it. That helped me better understand the magnitude of the problem and what's going to happen and the process that the Big Ten would go through, whether it's the officials or the media or how it's viewed. It could have come across as a controversial call, but you know what? We were right. Or you know what? We [blew] that call. It's not a whole lot different than the NFL. If you make a big mistake and it's a national game, it's going to hit every paper across the country. So that experience from a management side has been good.

How do you work with an issue when it comes up like that? We didn't talk about every single mistake, and it isn't so much the mistake. It's how can we prevent that mistake from happening a second time. The whole idea isn't just to say, 'Incorrect call.' It's how can we get the call correct next time? What's the better way to communicate that on replay? What's the better way on the field, before we throw the flag, to figure out do we have a foul or not? And you know what, we're still going to have mistakes. I'm going to put together an extensive training program for our guys and give them the opportunity to get better, but we're human. And whether it's the guys in the booth or the guys on the field or myself, we're human and we make mistakes. We have some pretty good people working Sundays and we average about three and a half mistakes a game. The college game makes mistakes, also. The whole idea is to measure our mistakes so it doesn't happen again, give some training and then look at the next year or the next game and say, 'Can we lower those mistakes?' That's how you measure improvement. 

Is there too much responsibility placed on the replay official in the college game? I think back to the bad touchdown call in the Michigan-Michigan State game this year. It seemed like it was ultimately on the replay official and turned into a pretty big deal. 

BC: The buck has to stop somewhere. There is a way to ease [the responsibility]. One is to train them better, make sure they not only know the rules for replay, but know the rules on the field. But I also don't care if you're the smartest guy on the rules, you can make a mistake on a rule. The pressure is still going to be on that replay person because he is the last person that can make a change in a call. So he has that ultimate authority. But changing some procedures on the field, 'I ruled a touchdown for this reason,' and making sure the guy that makes the call communicates to the referee and the referee communicates that to the replay person, says, 'We ruled catch and touchdown because the runner or the receiver did this and he kicked the pylon or one foot was in bounds.' Taking a few more seconds to communicate what was called and why, that will trigger the replay [official] to say, 'Oh, wait, I was thinking it was a receiver. It really was a runner. And that pylon's in or out of bounds?' They didn't do that. They just said, 'We ruled this,' and he looked at it and said, 'No, we're changing it to that,' without having a conversation about why.

It happened in the Orange Bowl. There was an interception, and they reversed it to an incomplete pass. Had they had the conversation as to why they ruled it an interception, the light would have gone on and they would have said, 'You're correct. I can confirm that. His hand was down in the field of play.' So are we going to have mistakes? You bet. I'm just trying to give them as much training in replay as possible. We'll spend a day and a half looking at replay in two weeks with all my replay people, trying to get some standard procedures in place.

The Big Ten led the NCAA in [introducing] replay, and we've got a couple of bumps on the road. The good news is no one's died of cancer on that play at Michigan because the right team won the game. Had a mistake with replay given six points when we shouldn't have or vice versa and decide the game, it would have been a much bigger problem. So we were a little bit lucky. And we've got a little time to figure out how to prevent that the next time. I talked to the replay person [at Michigan] on Monday [after the game]. I wasn't on the staff, I wasn't getting paid, but I knew the replay guy, I talked to Dave Parry about it, I talked to the commissioner [Jim Delany] about it, and I said I'd like talk to the replay guy to better understand what happened and why. So that's the type of conversation you go about. Not just trying to say, 'Well, they made a mistake.' Why did we make the mistake and how can we prevent it the next time?

As far as rule changes, do you see anything major going into this year? It seemed like timing issues were big the last couple of years. Also, the points of emphasis on safety and sportsmanship were big going into 2008.

BC: If you take a look at what's happened the last few years, the timing is an issue in how we can be a little more efficient in the game. Some of the timing rules could change. Safety is always a big deal, and sportsmanship, the last few years. I don't see us backing off on that, whether it's Sundays or Saturdays. I'm going to a meeting in a couple weeks at the NCAA, and that's the first meeting they have talking about the rules, talking about the mechanics, how we cover plays, that will lead to any rule changes. Dave Parry obviously is heading that up. Dave asked me to speak on two different subjects with the NCAA to try to get my interpretations and recommendations on how we should handle certain things. Some of it's just improvement with our head referee, some of it's taking a look at the mechanics for the umpire. That could lead to some changes coming out of that meeting, but I suspect unsportsmanlike conduct, celebrations, defenseless receivers, helmet to helmet, injuries, safety things, will be at the forefront of the discussions.

And lastly, how will you spend your Saturdays in the fall? Dave Parry obviously watched all the games from the Big Ten's television command center at the league office. 

BC: It will probably be a little bit different. Dave has a really good command of the staff. He hired all of them, he knows them pretty well, had all the referees, he was confident they were carrying out what he wanted each week. In my case, I probably will spend Friday nights and Saturdays with the crews as much as I can. The command center also is an important role, so if there's something that goes haywire in a game and we need to call the truck at CBS or ABC, whoever's doing the game, and say, 'Here's the rule, guys. It's a 5-yard penalty, previous spot, and replay the down.' So we don't have so
mething go out on the air wrong, it's important to be in the command center, where Dave was most of the time, but it's important for me to get with the crews and meet with the coaches that weekend and eventually, I will probably migrate back to the command center. My guess is every other weekend, I'll be at the command center and at a game. I can't be at two places at once. If there's a night game and I can be at the command center for the early games and then take off, that's fine. I'll be making those rounds with the crews at spring games, meeting all the coaches on my own, one on one, going to the spring games, going to the summer practices. So before we kick off and before they all get ticked off at Bill Carollo, I will know these people pretty well. I don't have to be there every game, and they'll feel comfortable to call me or tell me about a few plays. I've got to earn that right and respect from the coaches and the ADs, and I hope to do that in the next six months.