SEC coaches welcome new replay, ‘want to get it right’

Published 10:50 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

DESTIN, Fla. – Steve Shaw has a busy week at the Southeastern Conference’s annual meetings.

He’s already met with athletic directors. He’s already briefed football coaches. And he’s got a media session scheduled for today.

His presentation also might be the most important one of the week, at least in the short term.

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Shaw, the league’s coordinator of officials, is getting SEC coaches and administrators prepared for centralized replay, an experimental effort between the SEC office’s command center and the replay official at games.

Much like the Atlantic Coast Conference, the SEC will use collaborative replay in 2016. All replays will be looked at by a replay official in the stadium and the league’s “Video Command Center” located in Birmingham, Alabama. The three-person command center – which should be unaffected by noisy, crowded stadiums – will assist the replay official in making a determination on whether to uphold or reverse calls.

“Everybody – coaches, players, fans – want to get it right,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “When you have the human element involved, the more eyes that are on that, the more people able to review something, you have a better chance to get it right. I think that’s all anybody wants, and I think it’s great for our league and great for our game.”

Coaches and athletic directors overwhelmingly welcomed the experiment and had little, if any, hesitation about how it will affect games.

“I’m in favor of anything that will get the calls right,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “I think that’s what this league is trying to do. There’s a lot at stake. To have as many sets of eyes look at a play and get the call right, that’s what you’re trying to get done.

“We’re excited about it. I know the coaches are in favor of it. We’re totally in favor of it.”

Coaches pushed for a joint effort on replay, and the NCAA responded by allowing the experiment for the first time this fall.

Shaw detailed the procedures for coaches and administrators in Destin, showing them exactly how it will work. Shaw declined media interviews Tuesday and Wednesday, preferring to wait until his media demonstration Thursday.

But coaches said it’s fairly simple: Three people in Birmingham, Alabama, will review replays at the same time as the replay official on site. Together, they will decide how to handle suspect calls.

“It’s great,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “There’s going to be two or three guys looking at it. In total, that will be four guys, right? Three at the home office and then the one that’s on site. I just think it’s better all-around. The guy on site will have somebody to lean on. It takes human error out of it a little bit more.”

There are a couple of potential pitfalls.

First, college games already take well more than three hours to complete, so adding extra layers to replays will only extend them.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got to get it right,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said. “If it takes another 30 seconds to get it right, let’s get it right. So I think that’ll be good.”

Second, and an aspect that’s been talked about much less, is the perception of having people in the league office decide calls and maybe games.

“Why would that argument be any different than what it is right now?” Stoops said. “If you believe that, then there’s more people in on the conspiracy, right? I’ll just say this: Our league certainly knows very clearly that it does not want to make a mistake that dictates our champion or a potential national champion. There’s too much at stake.”

But fans are sure to scream when questionable calls go against their teams, which eventually will happen.

Coaches are willing to take that chance, believing the more trained eyes involved the better.

The biggest need for the experimental system seemingly involves targeting and catch calls. The way the targeting rule is enforced has caused more debate and dissension than any other. And the fact that it can lead to an ejection, which potentially can impact a game, makes it arguably more important than others.

“Sometimes those calls are very critical, especially with ejections,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “I think it’s a good step moving forward. … I think it will do nothing but help. … I’m looking forward to see how that unfolds.”

By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer