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Post Should replay officials ignore the call on the field?

Thursday December 17, 2009

Since it’s a slow time before the bowls and it might be January before we get any concrete news about the new coaches, I’ll throw out a topic that has been getting a lot of play, of all places, in the legal blogosphere: should replay officials review plays de novo?

de novo, in the legal context, means to review a case fresh; that is, without considering the original outcome. Applied to football replays, de novo review would mean that replay officials would review the play and make a ruling based on the video without consideration for the ruling on the field. That’s contrary to most replay systems currently in use which defer to the field officials and require “indisputable video evidence” in order to overturn a call.

Why remove the burden of indisputable video evidence and instead ignore the original call? It centers around this one assumption: a replay official, with multiple angles and time to study the call, almost always has the advantage over a field official making the call in real time.

What about instances where the video replay is inconclusive? It could still be argued that the judgment of the replay official is the right way to go. If several moments and multiple camera angles aren’t enough to establish a conclusive ruling, why would the original call made in the heat of the moment be any more accurate?

Go back to calls like the LSU interception against Alabama. With the ruling on the field of a catch out of bounds, the burden under the current standard is to prove conclusively that the defender’s foot was in bounds. Based on the outcome of the review (the call was upheld), we conclude that the standard wasn’t met. But under a de novo review, the booth would be free to consider the play and the number of angles without being constrained by the ruling on the field.

Since there are a lot of educated minds kicking this topic around, some good points have been raised. Overuse of replay and its effect on the game’s pace are vaild concerns. There are also disagreements over whether multiple video angles really can provide a better look at a call than an official who is in great position to see the play. That’s especially valid considering the non-standardized equipment and video quality in the booth that’s often poorer than what home viewers see.

PS…regardless of the standards used for review, I’ll beat my drum here again for unmanned cameras positioned at goal lines.

PPS…I do like Josh Patashnik’s point about the arbitrariness of calls, especially when it comes to spotting the ball. It’s always amused me that the officials can eyeball the placement of the spot for every play – including the one that sets the chains to begin with – and yet the decision to award a first down depends on a (relatively) precise measurement.

2 Responses to 'Should replay officials ignore the call on the field?'

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  • In regard to the goal line cameras, I find it amazing that they are not standard, if not required.

  • “If several moments and multiple camera angles aren’t enough to establish a conclusive ruling, why would the original call made in the heat of the moment be any more accurate?”

    Because sometimes the on field official is in perfect position to make the call, whereas there is not a great angle available for replay.

    Having said that, I would still be for de novo because I think it would work BETTER than the present system.