DESTIN, Fla. — Last month the SEC announced it was going to what it called a “collaborative” replay system for football games. On Thursday night, it outlined how it would work.
A command center in Birmingham, where the SEC offices are located, will be manned by three replay officials. They will work in tandem with the replay official on site at each SEC home game.
The ultimate, final decision still belongs to the main replay official.
“But if you’re going against the three guys in the command center, you better be able to bet your career that you’re right,” SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said, smiling.
Shaw explained the new system in a presentation to media members at SEC meetings. Why the need for it? The SEC has examined its replay reviews over the years and determined a certain number (Shaw wouldn’t say how many) where the result of the replays were incorrect, and might have changed with a collaborative process.
Shaw also said they determined a certain number of stoppages that should have occurred to review a call.
The situation at the stadium remains the same: Three people in the main booth, including the main replay official, a communicator, and a technician. The main replay official retains the sole authority to stop the game.
But now the Birmingham command center will have three officials, who have the ability to call the on-site replay official to suggest or ask about stopping the game. The main replay official makes the call whether to stop it.
When a play is reviewed, the on-site official will work in collaboration with the command center, which will have access to not only the TV feed, but also the immediate feed of the game. After that collaborative process, the main replay official makes the decision.
“We do not feel like this is going to add time to the game. In fact, we suspect, we hope, this is going to make the process quicker,” Shaw said.
The three people in the command center will also be replay officials. The SEC has picked five officials to serve in the role, and will rotate them in the season so that two of them are on-site replay officials every weekend.
Why three? That’s the most SEC games going on at one time. Each are assigned one game, if there are three overlapping at any point. But they have the flexibility to consult with each other, especially when there’s only one or two games going on.
The same limitations apply to replay officials and command center officials as do regular on-field officials: You can’t work a game that is your alma mater, or where your son or daughter goes to school, or in a game where you once worked with the coach, etc.
Shaw also tried to fend off the conspiracy theorists.
“Commissioner (Greg) Sankey will not participate in a decision or make a decision. Coordinator Shaw will not participate in a decision or make a decision,” Shaw said. “The conference office will not make this decision. The command center will.”
There is one other major change this season with regards to replay: It can now also be used to “create” a targeting call that was initially missed on the field.
Shaw said they found two plays last year in SEC games where they felt replay would have found a targeting call that was not called on the field. One was a blind-side hit by a Troy player against Mississippi State. The other came when a Florida player hit a player trying to catch a punt. (That was called kick interference on the field.)
“Targeting is something we need to get out of the game,” Shaw said.