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September 21, 2006

Instant replay going through some growing pains

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Kirk Ferentz couldn't help but chuckle when asked about the outcome of Saturday's Oklahoma-Oregon game.

He didn't mean to poke fun at the Sooners or Bob Stoops or even the game itself. It was a sympathetic laugh.

"I am laughing about déjà vu all over again," Ferentz said. "Imagine an onside kick being called improperly. Geez, is that amazing?"

What sparked Ferentz's reaction? At least Stoops had his onside kick reviewed on tape in the press box, even if it didn't work out in his favor.

In the Outback Bowl against Florida on Jan. 2, Hawkeyes linebacker Chad Greenway was called offside on Iowa's onside kick in the final two minutes of a 31-24 game. The Gators recovered the second onside kick attempt and won the game. Replays showed Greenway was not offside, but the point was moot – the penalty is not a reviewable call.

At Autzen Stadium on Saturday, officials reviewed Oregon's onside kick and awarded the Ducks the ball although broadcast replays showed an Oregon player touched the ball before it traveled the required 10 yards.

Despite the differences in the two situations, Ferentz and Stoops can both lament the inconsistency in the review process.

After a week when press box officials played such a major part in the outcome of several games, most coaches seem to agree that instant replay - though flawed - is better than no replay at all.

"It's unfortunate with all of today's technology and all that's out there that the situation was what it is," Stoops said. "It's still better than not having it at all and allowing some of the calls that are out there."

Instant replay was installed on an experimental basis by the Big Ten in 2004 and expanded to all leagues this year. It has caused its share of frustrations both when implemented and not implemented.

The Outback Bowl wasn't the only bowl game with a disputed call. In the Rose Bowl, Texas quarterback Vince Young threw a lateral to Selvin Young for a touchdown. The game never stopped for a replay due to an equipment malfunction and Texas' quick extra point attempt – which it missed. Video would have shown that Young's knee was on the ground before the pitch.

In the third week of the 2006 season, four games were decided in part by video review or lack thereof.

Despite the difficulties, coaches still have a measure of patience with replay.

"It's still in the inception phase," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "It's still in infancy in a sense."

Now, they hope to make it right more often.

Among other ideas, coaches have talked about establishing a national pool of officials rather than each conference employing its own. The hope is that officials from out of town will be less susceptible to pressures of the home crowd.

For example, Pac-10 officials work non-conference home games at its member schools – like Oklahoma at Oregon. A national pool of officials would eliminate such a scenario.

"It's an argument that needs to be explored, and if they can do it, I think it would be one of the real positive things that we could do to make the game, from an intersectional standpoint, much fairer," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I don't think there's any question when you're going on the road, and I don't care where it is or who you are, you run into some of those issues. It's just human nature. People are affected by the crowds."

Coaches also would like to allow for more camera angles, or at least consistent camera angles.

N.C. State coach Chuck Amato, whose team lost to Akron on a questionable call at the goal line, would naturally like to see a camera there.

"That goal line is such an important area," Amato said. "Why isn't there a camera on either side of the field running right down that goal line? That's one that is always reviewable. That would help."

Ask Stoops and Bellotti, and they'd like to see officials get all the help they need.

"Football is a game when the ball takes funny bounces and instant replay was designed to remedy any questions about that," Bellotti said. "The whole idea was to get it right. It was important and designed to do that. It did not in this case, it didn't get it right."

The Rivals Five
Here are five game-turning calls involving video review this season:
1. Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33:
An onside kick gave Oregon the ball, but replays indicated a Ducks player touched the ball before it traveled the required 10 yards.
2. Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33, part 2:
Bob Stoops also believed one of his players tipped a pass by Dennis Dixon on a play that resulted in pass interference. A tipped pass would have negated the penalty.
3. Auburn 7, LSU 3:
Officials reversed a pass interference call on Auburn's Zach Gilbert when it was deemed the pass to Early Doucet was uncatchable with or without a tip from Auburn's Eric Brock. Rules allow video review for touching of a pass by a defensive player. Play was not stopped for review.
4. Akron 20, NC State 17:
Akron running back Dennis Kennedy scored the game-winning touchdown when it was questioned whether the ball crossed the plane of the goal line before he was down. N.C. State was out of timeouts and could not challenge. Play did not stop for review, and the ACC office supported the on-field ruling.
5. Boston College 30, BYU 23:
Boston College linebacker Jamie Silva's interception in double overtime was allowed after it was initially ruled an incomplete pass on the field.

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