UC Davis football coach Ron Gould and Jody Sears, his counterpart at Sacramento State, say the officiating in the Big Sky Conference is top-flight.
But when asked if their teams have been the victim of critical, game-turning calls that they believe were wrong or were later determined to be incorrect by conference officials, they sidestep the gory details like a running back avoiding a linebacker.
“Of course that’s happened,” said Gould, the Aggies third-year coach and former Cal assistant. “Oh yeah, there have been games – yes! – but I won’t go there.”
Sears is in his fourth season overall as a Big Sky Conference head coach, second at Sac State, and he also was an assistant for several years at conference powerhouse Eastern Washington.
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“Oh yeah, there have been plenty of those” calls, Sears said. “But it’s not about the past, it’s about moving forward.”
Both coaches are pleased that the 13-team conference will offer video review of all regular-season games for the first time this year. (The conference also will offer uniform video review for the first time for all 12 of its basketball arenas.)
To have it for every game is phenomenal. We’re all fallible human beings, and we all make mistakes. The beauty about instant replay is now we have the chance to make it right.
UC Davis football coach Ron Gould
“I think it’s a great thing, and it shows the Big Sky is growing with the times,” Sears said. “We’ve got it in the NFL. We’ve got it in the (Football Bowl Subdivision), so there is no reason why we shouldn’t have it. It’s going to be really, really good for the fans. So I love it.”
Gould said that having video replay will improve both coaching and officiating.
“To have it for every game is phenomenal,” Gould said. “We’re all fallible human beings, and we all make mistakes. The beauty about instant replay is now we have the chance to make it right. I think it’s exciting for the conference.”
Instant replay was introduced in the NFL in 1986. It came to FBS schools in 2006. In recent years, the Football Championship Subdivision has used replay during its playoffs.
Cost and logistics were the major roadblocks for the Big Sky. The conference will dip into its reserve fund for the $500,000 to cover the costs of video replay for football and basketball. UCD and Sac State are making room in their respective press boxes to house the replay equipment and the officials who will use it.
“I commend the presidents and administrators of our universities for understanding the importance of this technology and investing the resources to make it happen,” said conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton last month when the move to replay was announced.
Some coaches believe one unintended consequence of having replay is that replay may slow down some of the Big Sky’s quick-striking offenses.
The Big Sky will be working with DVSport, the Pittsburgh-based company that provided replay last season for 800 regular-season, all NCAA playoff and championship games and 34 bowl games, including the national semifinal and championship games. Their equipment also will be used for the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball games.
Big Sky director of football officials Karl Richins has hired and trained the replay officials who will be imbedded throughout the year with the same seven-man officiating crews; the goal is to develop continuity.
Every play will be reviewed to confirm, let stand or reverse calls, though a game will only be stopped by a replay official if it is competitive. Coaches also will be allowed to challenge a play, but they must call a timeout. If the call is overturned, they will not be charged for a timeout, and they will receive a second challenge. But if a call is not reversed, the team loses the timeout. Teams won’t be charged a timeout if a replay official stops the game to review a play.
Some coaches believe one unintended consequence of having replay is that it may slow down some of the Big Sky’s quick-striking offenses. Some conference games last season saw 150 plays or more run from scrimmage.
“It’s not a positive for an up-tempo offense,” first-year Montana coach Bob Stitt told The Missoulian. “You could have it going, and they decide to review a play that doesn’t really matter. Then the defense gets a big break. It’s like another TV timeout.”
Sears agrees that could be a problem, especially if coaches get caught up in challenging plays.
“You are trying to focus on the things you can control: your coaching, game planning, adjustments and flow of the game,” Sears said. “You don’t want to get distracted on what you think might be a bad call. So you’ve got to be careful.”