Upon further review, college football's replay system still needs some work
Controversial calls have fans — and coaches — shaking their heads.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Now, for a nice, light Wednesday-morning, Pac-10 football topic that will go down easy and offend no one:
Replay officiating, anybody?
Tuesday, this was the word from Dave Cutaia, Pac-10 coordinator of football officiating, on the two calls that have particularly riled Arizona partisans in the wake of a 36-33 loss to Washington:
On the Jordan Polk fumble that was overturned and ruled an incompletion, just before Jake Locker tied the score with a long touchdown run: "It probably is an incomplete pass, but I don't think there's [enough] to reverse it. We probably should have let it stand."
On the Delashaun Dean-Mason Foster Kick and Pick that decided the game: "We looked at that a hundred times. We have to be beyond any doubt to overturn it."
And what of the techies producing still photos that claim to prove the ball hit the ground?
"Many times, still pictures can be deceptive," said Cutaia. "If you frame it, like 32 frames per second, you can make it look like an incomplete pass."
Over to you, then, Mike Stoops. Arizona's last two games, against Oregon State and Washington, have been fraught with replays, which have gone consistently against the Wildcats. On Tuesday's Pac-10 conference call, I asked Stoops, the Wildcats' coach, whether there's any mechanism that might refine the system.
"You'd have to ask Dave Cutaia," Stoops said, none too expansively.
Given the high threshold inherent in the term "indisputable video evidence" for overturning field calls, does he find himself shaking his head over some of the conclusions?
"Why would you ask me that question?" Stoops said, again none too expansively. "You've seen me shake my head."
I'm shaking my head over a couple of aspects of recent replay officiating, especially in the UW games. First, when Pac-10 teams are playing Notre Dame, that's the only instance among the conference's intersectional games that "reverse" crews are used, so Pac-10 officials work in South Bend.
The league needs to contract that in those games, a Pac-10 replay crew also works. Otherwise, it's the equivalent of the old — and ultimately untenable — "split crew" of officials on the field. The league is vulnerable to the uneasy aftermath of last week, when it was asked to react to decisions made by both Pac-10 and Big East officials.
Here's the bigger problem: Too many replay officials are abusing the standard of indisputable video evidence, and not just in the Pac-10.
The important reversal at Notre Dame that took away a Chris Polk touchdown was a puzzler, beyond the pale of indisputable video evidence.
Don't take my word for it. Listen to Dave Parry, national coordinator for College Football Officiating, in a phone interview Tuesday:
"That has been a real problem for everybody," said Parry, referring to the standard for reversal. "We've harped and harped on it. If you have to spend two or three minutes looking, you don't have indisputable video evidence. Why would you take that long and then reverse something?
"Unfortunately, the replay officials, they're former officials and they're so intent on being perfect, they probably sometimes get in the way" of calling it correctly.
Replay officials seemed to err the other way a week earlier, turning Indiana coach Bill Lynch apoplectic, when, on a simultaneous possession as his receiver's knee hit, a field crew ruled a Michigan interception that was upheld.
More on officiating and replay:
• Coaches boxes can't have TVs. So decisions on whether to challenge a call, such as Washington's on Notre Dame's disputed two-point conversion, might hinge on the live play or whether the stadium has a video board (the Irish don't).
• Cutaia says more plays are typically reviewed without game stoppages than with them, and that, other than "on a rare occasion," the TV replays you're seeing constitute everything available up above.
• Parry says he's "heard nothing negative" about the inaugural season of a joint officiating pool from supervisors in the Mountain West, WAC and Conference USA, a venture that could be the precursor to a national pool.
After further review, so to speak, here's what Cutaia says about replay: "It's evolving."
Which is another way of saying: It's not there yet.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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