NCF Nation: officials

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."

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.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This guy was a special agent in the FBI for 26 years. He was a back judge for 30. Now he coordinates officials for 21 schools, including everyone in the ACC. Don't mess with him.

Doug Rhoads knows what he's doing, and he was kind enough to take time out of his day to discuss a wide variety of topics with me, Quantico and criminals included. (We'll get to that later).

First, check out some new rule changes coming this season, the biggest which will be clock-related:

  • They've adopted the 40-second play clock. At the end of every play, the covering official will give his signal, whether it's an incomplete pass, a first down or whatever. At the end of the play, the play clock operator will set the clock at 40 seconds.

"You no longer have the referee stepping up there marking the ball ready for play," Rhoads said. "It's already started at the end of the previous play. That's exactly like the NFL. So now, the team huddles, they come up to the line, they can be a no-huddle offense, be right up there and snap it when it's at 39, 38 or 37, or they can take the whole 40 seconds, come up to the line, call their play, look around, they can use all the time. It's up to the offense to determine the speed of their play rather than it being in the referee's determination of when it's marked ready. It's a good rule. It gets consistency. One referee may have been different than another."

There are about a dozen exceptions to the 40-second playclock, where it will be stopped or interrupted and 25 seconds will be put on it. Here are a few:

- A team calls a timeout
- A TV timeout
- Change of possession
- After a measurement
- If there's a replay challenge or a coach's challenge
- Between periods of overtime

  • The second major rule change also involves the clock. It used to be teams could kill the clock by going out of bounds. Not anymore, unless it's within the last two minutes of the second or fourth quarter.

When a player goes out of bounds, normally officials would stop the clock. Now, when they inbounds the ball and put it on the hashmark, they're going to wind the game clock -- not the play clock.

  • There were also a few that dealt with safety. The five-yard facemask penalty is gone. Now, all facemask penalties are 15 yards, but a player must "grasp, pull or twist" the facemask.

"If you just put your hand on the facemask or the helmet, that is not a foul," Rhoads said. "We used to have a 5-yard for a minor facemask. No longer. They're all 15. That's because you must grasp, pull or twist. That language is what makes it 15."

  • The other change was in the definition of the chop block. That's the dangerous move where two offensive linemen would work together to bring a guy down with a vicious hit at or below the thigh. Previously it was defined as when one of them would hit the defensive tackle, stand him up, and then his teammate, with a DELAYED action, would hit him at or below the thigh.

"These two offensive linemen, when one of them stands him up, there had to be a delay," Rhoads said. "We've eliminated the word delay in there, because how do you determine how much is a delay? Which guy hit first? What if the action comes from the defensive guy? It's harder to interpret so what we've done and what the NCAA rule has done is eliminated that delay. Now, any high and low, or low and high -- the low block can be first -- is a chop block."

  • Another rule change that involved safety came regarding the horse-collar tackle. This is when a ball carrier is running and the defender reaches and grabs him from the back inside of his shoulder pad or jersey. In order for this to be a foul, he has to grab his shoulder pad area and immediately jerk him back to the ground in the open field. It doesn't apply if you're in the tackle box.

Check back later for the latest on instant replay, what the officials got right, and what they're missing.