Last Modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 12:52 PMPlay it again, Sam. Or Steve. Or Geoff. Or Joan. Or whatever the name of the person in the replay booth happens to be.
Southland Conference coaches and officials will have the opportunity to say that or something similar to it for the first time this season as the league becomes the first in the Football Championship Subdivision to institute instant replay for all games.
The Southland touts itself as one of the premier leagues in the FCS, and in this case has strongly put its money where its mouth is with the pioneering step that eliminates one of the disadvantages separating the subdivision from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“We’ve got a group of presidents and athletic directors who are focused on being as competitive as possible,” said Commissioner Tom Burnett. “They fully understand the sport financially, culturally and competitively in our part of the country.”
Financially, Burnett said the conference will foot the bill for the technology needed to make replay happen at all institutions. The league will also assign the replay officials for each game as it does with on-field officials.
Each school’s financial responsibility is limited to paying the personnel needed to man the cameras and equipment that make replay possible.
“Saying we’re going to do it was the easy part,” Burnett said. “There is a financial commitment from the conference to pay for this. There is a financial burden on the schools, but that will be towards the staffing of replay. Our original intention was to just do TV games, but as we met with coaches and athletic directors that transitioned into just full-time doing it.”
Not surprisingly, the move to replay received universal praise from coaches and players at Wednesday’s Southland media day.
“I really want to thank the commissioner because the replay is such a great deal for us to be on the front end of things as the only conference that has it,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “We’re really excited to have it, just as we were the first to partner with the Big 12 for officiating. That program has been fantastic and we’re certainly looking forward to the instant replay.”
The Southland’s previously established officiating consortium with the Mountain West and Big 12 — every week, a crew member comes from one of the bigger conferences — will help ease the transition to replay since there is an already established familiarity.
The biggest beneficiaries of the new rules figure to be defensive players.
Last year, any player flagged for targeting an opponent’s head was ejected. While reviewable at the FBS level, there was no way for FCS players to receive a similar reprieve. Even if it was a bad call, it stood.
Now if a review determines there was no foul for targeting, the player will stay in the game and the flag will be picked up.
“You see so many games at the FBS level change due to instant replay,” said Northwestern State defensive back Imoan Claiborne. “I think it will be the same thing. The referees can’t see everything. To be able to go back and look will be huge for our conference.”
The ground rules for replay will be similar to the FBS, Burnett said.
A replay review can either be initiated directly from the booth by the replay official during a stoppage between plays, or a coach can call a timeout to challenge a play.
If his team wins that challenge, the timeout will not be charged and the coach will have the ability to challenge a second play later in the game. However, if the play is not overturned, that coach does not get an additional challenge. Additionally, a coach cannot challenge a play if his team is out of timeouts.
There will be a minimum of four high-definition cameras recording each play from various locations, with the possibility of additional angles for televised games.
According to the Southland’s replay guidelines, in order for an on-field ruling to be reversed, “the replay official must be convinced beyond all doubt by indisputable video evidence through one or more video replays provided to the monitor.”