The NFL has allowed its teams to use electronic and video devices on sidelines since 2014. Most state high school associations do as well. In between those levels, though, college programs are not permitted to use the most up-to-date technology because, well, welcome to the NCAA.
The NCAA’s Football Rules Committee initially approved use of electronic and video devices last March only to reverse course just one month later. “[A]fter receiving feedback from commissioners in all three divisions that sponsor the sport, it was decided more time was needed to develop guidelines that would allow for consistent application of the rule, help manage the costs and to provide time to see if any unintended consequences develop,” the NCAA reasoned at the time, delaying the implementation to 2017.
It is now 2017, and it doesn’t appear the rule is any closer to passing.
The Football Rules Committee rescinded its proposal in October, as South Dakota head coach wrote in a memo:
The committee received significant comment and feedback from a variety of sources regarding the permissive rule passed in February regarding video/electronic devices in coaching booths and locker rooms. Included was a suggestion from the Division I Football Oversight Committee and several conference administrators to reconsider the proposal, which was to go into effect starting with the 2017 season.
Based on this feedback, the committee voted to rescind the proposal to allow a broad discussion to take place with regard to technology and how it impacts game competition. The Division I Football Oversight Committee is establishing a competition committee to assist in the rules process and the rules committee believes taking this action will allow the football community time to review these issues in more depth. Based on this action, and subsequent PROP approval, the current rules regarding the use of video for coaching purposes have not changed.
CBSSports.com’s Jon Solomon collected quotes from a number of sources around the game, and the result was typical NCAA-ism: searching for reasons why a proposal wouldn’t work rather than why it could, stuffed with the typical arms race fear-mongering that is woven into the fabric of college sports.
“Some coaches think it’s great, and maybe they’ve had more experience with it at the NFL level,” NCAA associate director and rules committee liaison Ty Halpin told CBS. “Some coaches think that shouldn’t be what football is about, and once you’re at the game, it should be about making adjustments [without technology] and coaching the team. Finding the right balance has been a bit of a challenge for all of us.”
Added SEC coordinator of officiating Steve Shaw: “You don’t want your home team to have some incredible technology capability and the visitors not to have any. There’s a cost component to this everybody has to understand. There will be a lot of work around technology for fleshing out what really will be good for the game.”
[FootballScoop notes that thousands have high school programs across the country already use this technology in game, on the sidelines. The entire CFL used SkyCoach (the market leader in sideline instant replay) for this entire season without hiccup…and to rave reviews. And even the NFL is testing sideline instant replay video; but you do you NCAA.]
Elsewhere, it sounds as if there will be less targeting ejections in 2017 than 2016. This is the result in a tweaking of the targeting rule, which shifts the burden of proof from replay officials (who had to prove a targeting foul didn’t happen upon replay review) to officials (whose on-field targeting calls will now have to also be confirmed by the replay official). If a replay official does not have sufficient evidence to confirm or overturn a targeting call on the field, the 15-yard targeting foul will remain intact while the offending player will remain in the game.
There were 144 players ejected from games due to targeting calls last season (including 16 from calls originated from the replay booth), compared to 72 in 2014.
The new proposal would be approved during the rules committee’s March 2-3 meetings.