The Wisconsin/Arizona St. finish was awful. The referees lost control, didn’t know the rules, and didn’t take the time to review the final play to get it right. The PAC 12 apologized, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was literally impactful to the result. It’s time to improve instant replay reviews in both pro and college.
The No Huddle Problem
Offenses are moving towards no huddle offenses, and this at a minimum makes teams much better at getting snaps off before plays can be challenged or signaled for review. The NFL has changed rules in the last couple of years to booth review all scoring plays and turnovers, and that’s a nice start, but they have to do something about first down plays that are incorrectly called. It seems as though every week some team avoids a challenge because the offense knows to quickly get the snap off.
The problem is that 90% of the time, people watching at home can see a play that is close and thing a review is warranted, so it shouldn’t be that difficult for someone in the booth to agree. They should buzz down if it’s too close, and review them just like turnovers and scoring plays. Verification from the booth if the play was good or not.
Under the Hood Reviews
It has never made any sense to have the referee on the field have to jog over to a corner of the field, and watch replays himself. Especially since THERE IS A REPLAY OFFICIAL ALREADY! There is literally a guy in the booth who reviews all turnovers and scoring plays. Why doesn’t this guy just review the replays and save what would surely amount to a couple of minutes per review? This one seems obvious, and also seems highly likely to be changed in the next couple of years.
End of the Game Plays
The previously mentioned Wisconsin/ASU game shows a major problem, particularly in college with the fans storming the field, games that end on questionable calls are hard to review and correct. It sounds like it wouldn’t had any difference in Tempe since the referees didn’t seem to know the correct rules anyway, but it should be fixable if they did. Because it’s the end of the game and slowing things down at that point shouldn’t matter, every end of game play should be reviewed and confirmed just like scoring and turnover plays.
Penalties Should Be Reviewable
Some penalties are judgement calls (intentional grounding, pass interference, etc.), but many are simply binary (offsides, too many men on the field, etc.). It makes no sense that penalties are not reviewable. With the targeting rules being called much more frequently as player protection becomes a point of emphasis. In real-time these plays look different than they do upon a second look. These kinds of plays are impacting games as much as calling turnovers incorrectly, and yet they are going unreviewed.
The Counter Arguments
The biggest counter to expanding replay is that the games will get too long. But the games are already too long, and almost all of that is a result of commercials. But nowadays during reviews the networks tend to go to commercial a lot of the time anyway. So if there are extra reviews along the way then they can just skip the commercials after every single change of possession. Or the extra one that comes when it’s touchdown-extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial.
The other counter argument is that human error is “just part of the game.” Of course this is ridiculous anyway, but it gets compounded when someone decided that some things can be reviewed while others can’t.
The goal should always be to let the players and coaches decide the game, not the refs. The calls should be fair, and accurate. The calls need to be right all the time, not just when it meets certain parameters, or is initiated by a challenge, or can be reviewed before a team quickly runs another play. The good news is that both the NFL and the NCAA are making pretty regular changes, so there is still hope that most of these issues will be cleared up soon.