By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
If you were watching the Michigan vs. Michigan State game over the weekend, the most memorable play, of course, came with just :10 seconds left. It left you either heartbroken (Michigan fans) or ecstatic and in shock (Michigan State fans). What that exciting final play covered up, however, was a game marred by instant replay delays.
It may seem odd that in an era where sports fans want less of a chance of human error to impact the game to be arguing for the reduction of instant replay reviews. However, if you watched that game Saturday, or really any college football game this season, you’ve noticed the omnipresence of the official review.
Of particular consequence is the targeting rule which requires officials to review the play regardless of how clear the call was. For those unfamiliar, in an effort to reduce helmet to helmet hits, the NCAA instituted the following rules.
“Targeting and Initiating Contact With the Crown of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3)
No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.
Targeting and Initiating Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4)
No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul. (Rule 2-27-14)”
The rule is a sound one in theory, protecting players from the types of hits that can cause concussions and long lasting effects to a player’s health. Officials often will, when in doubt, throw a flag and call the targeting foul knowing that it is going to be reviewed in order to determine whether it was the right call. Getting these calls right is imperative because a targeting foul results in immediate ejection from the game. However, because of the propensity to call this foul on anything close, instant replays get triggered and in cases such as this Michigan-Michigan State game, still don’t get the call correct.
One proposal that has been thrown out previously and should be instituted is a NBA style flagrant 1/flagrant 2 system which, while still requiring some level of replay would not put as much weight on every targeting call. Only particularly egregious targeting calls would get the flagrant 2 variety and those are generally more clear on replay. In fact, only make the targeting call review-able in this case if it is of the flagrant 2 variety or if it is a player’s second flagrant 1 targeting penalty.
Outside of targeting calls, it seems the NCAA has made almost anything review-able. Again in theory, the NCAA has the right thought. It has just been executed poorly. For those watching games this season it has become a regular occurrence to see an official come over to the sidelines multiple times during a quarter to communicate with the replay official. It’s understandable to want to get these calls right, but at a certain point you’ve sacrificed the efficient fast-paced nature of the game.
Here’s my solution for this problem. Go to an NFL system. Turnovers and touchdowns are quickly reviewed by a replay official, who only stops the game if there’s reason to overturn the call. Coaches get two challenges with the possibility of a third if they win the previous two. Concerned about late game calls? That’s fine, everything within the final 2 minutes is initiated from the replay booth. Sure, the NFL has had it’s share of replay problems, but those mostly have come from the league’s inability to decide what exactly a catch is or referee’s blowing judgment calls. That’s concerning but that’s where the challenges come in, borrowing an idea from my colleague Bryan Altman, nothing is off limits.
In this scenario, the pressure would no longer be on the officials to flag everything or stop the game for every call that could go either way. The pressure would fall on the coaches. The guys that are paid to put their teams in the best position to win, now have to do just that by deciding in game when to strategically use their challenges.
Will this happen? Probably not. Maybe I’m in the minority and you would rather see all calls reviewed. Maybe the length of games doesn’t bother you because you’re flipping in between games. In my view, after further review, we need less reviews.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.