The Canadian Football League has taken a step to use technology in order to limit the number of officiating mistakes in its games, and they won’t be the last. The CFL announced last week it has added a video official to each of its crews to address “obvious mistakes” missed by the officials on the field and not covered by replay challenges.
The change makes the CFL the first North American sports league to do so. The video official will be located in the CFL’s central command center in Toronto, much like how the NBA handles its replay system.
A real-time example, as cited by CBC Sports:
The CFL will add a video official to address obvious errors not covered by replay challenges, such as when both the offense and defense enter the neutral zone before the snap. In that case, the replay official could examine the play and tell the referee which team jumped first.
“Expanding what can be reviewed will not result in a slower game because coaches are not being provided with additional reviews per game,” CFL senior vice president of football Glen Johnson, the CFL’s senior vice president of football said in a statement. “In fact, we’re looking to reduce the number of delays and the number of penalties, while improving the quality of the game and protecting the health of our players.”
The obvious question, then, is if college football should do the same, and if so, would it be practical?
From my chair, it appears the answer is yes, but it would be tricky.
Because college football is the way it is, a video official would have to be implemented on a conference-by-conference basis, much like when the Big 12 became the first league to add an eighth official to keep up with its up-tempo offenses. So, for example, the SEC and Big Ten could add video officials, but the ACC and Pac-12 may not.
The question would then become how the system is handled for non-conference games and bowl games, where Big Ten officials may work a championship game pitting teams hailing from conferences without video officials. And if this issue shook out like every other in the sport, some coaches would love it, others would hate it, and ’round and ’round they’d go.
Though it appears a video official may not have much to do over the course of a game, it’s admirable of the CFL to leave no stone unturned in terms of making sure its product is as properly officiated as humanly possible.