Did instant replay spread too fast?
The Big Ten started it as an experiment in 2004. All but two Division I-A conferences used it in the 2005 regular season. Then it was implemented for use in all 28 bowl games in 2005-06.
|Dodd's first 2006 Top 25|
|1. Ohio State|
|3. West Virginia|
|6. Notre Dame|
|12. Boston College|
|15. Penn State|
|18. Virginia Tech|
|19. South Carolina|
|24. Florida State|
|25. Arizona State|
But all heck broke loose in the postseason, especially if you're a Michigan or USC loyalist. Two technical glitches had huge impacts on the Alamo and Rose bowls.
Did the toddler grow into a juvenile delinquent without proper parenting?
"During the regular season, I got sort of a smug feeling," said Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director for football. "The number of e-mails I'd get on Monday mornings complaining about officials were reduced drastically."
Then the bowls started. A faulty switch kept a replay official from alerting the referee that a play should have been reviewed in the Michigan-Nebraska game. A malfunctioning monitor kept a replay crew from stopping play for a review in the Rose Bowl. There could have been as many as three reasons to overturn Selvin Young's touchdown run.
Not that Texas' first touchdown mattered or anything. The Longhorns won the game of the century by three to claim its first national title in 35 years.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr burned two timeouts trying to get replay officials to look at plays. Turns out a switch, imported from TCU, was the culprit on the first play.
"That is a byproduct," Poppe said. "The expectations of the system are so high, and you still have human error."
It is thought that the NCAA rules committee will standardize instant replay during their meeting next month. The 11 I-A conferences and the 2005 rights holders (CBS, ESPN, ABC) will brainstorm as a special replay meeting on Jan. 26 in Indianapolis.
|Penn State prevails in the marathon Orange Bowl which approached five hours in length. (Getty Images)|
That more than proves that instant replay was needed, and to a degree, it works. Until things are smoothed out, controversy is bound to happen. The mechanical errors in the bowls make you wonder how many there were that we didn't hear about in the regular season.
"I can't say that (mechanical glitches) didn't happen," Poppe said. "It just wasn't a visible issue."
Replay rules were all over the map. This past season, the Mountain West Conference used an NFL-style coach's challenge. In Conference USA, referees were allowed to review plays on a sideline monitor, also similar to the NFL model.
The WAC and Sun Belt didn't use it. Arguably the biggest game of the year (USC-Notre Dame) went without instant replay.
On Monday, Division I-A coaches voted against the use of a coach's challenge at the American Football Coaches Association convention.
By next season, you'll probably see all the I-A conferences with replay, most using the comprehensive DVSport system out of Pittsburgh already used by the major conferences.
The Alamo Bowl, though, probably did as much to drive a wedge between the haves and have-nots of the sport as the BCS in recent years. Two major powers -- Michigan and Nebraska -- were officiated by a crew from the Sun Belt.
Dave Parry, national coordinator for NCAA officiating, was upset Sun Belt officials didn't throw flags at the conclusion. Members of both teams came on the field as Michigan desperately lateraled seven times in an attempt to score a winning touchdown as time ran out.
Earlier, that faulty switch kept the officiating crew from stopping the game for a review.
"I wish we had a group in that (replay) box that had been around the block," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune.
Turns out it had. The Sun Belt crew was assisted by a replay crew from North Texas. That was one of two Sun Belt schools (Louisiana-Lafayette was the other) that experimented with replay in the conference. No games were stopped, but officials did use equipment to review plays.
"That's not fair for the simple reason the guys in the replay booth had worked as many games as anyone," said Wright Waters, commissioner of the Sun Belt. "It was an equipment malfunction. Our crew had borrowed the buzzer from TCU because (the Sun Belt) didn't have to use a buzzer."
"The big picture is what everybody has to keep in mind. It's an experimental system."
Length does matter
Notice how long those bowl games lasted? If you didn't, you were dead, or extremely sleepy.
The average was 3 hours, 44 minutes, or 20 minutes longer than the average regular-season game. The four BCS bowl games lasted an average of 4:05. The three-overtime Orange Bowl was going on five hours when Penn State ended the marathon.
Yes, the games were longer -- sometimes agonizingly so. The question is, why, and does anyone that matters care?
Question 1: The games were longer mostly because of expanded halftime shows. If it's one thing these bowl games are good at, it's bloated halftime shows extolling God, country and LeAnn Rimes.
Question 2: No, the networks are getting exactly what they want. The Rose Bowl drew a BCS record 22.7 rating. The game was compelling throughout, meaning TVs didn't switch off as the contest went on, as happened in last year's Oklahoma-USC Orange Bowl.
ABC says the commercials are not longer. Maybe it just seems that way when a Rose Bowl that is advertised at 8 p.m. really kicks off 8:25 p.m. ET. The network wants what it calls a proper "lead-in" to whet the appetite and -- oh, yes -- show commercials.
"I'm not optimistic that we could do a great deal about (starting times)," said BCS coordinator Mike Slive. "We had the Sugar Bowl and I looked at my watch and it was 12:30 (a.m.). It reminded me of the World Series, when we were young and games were played in the afternoon."
The college game is longer than the NFL (by a few minutes) because in college, the clock is stopped after first downs. But that feature makes the college game unique, especially when a team is driving late for a tying or winning score.
"It isn't instant replay," Slive said. "It has to do with commercial time and the rules of our game. We have a confluence of forces that make it difficult to turn the tide."
Playing it close
Best bowl season ever? You can make the case. The four BCS bowls were the closest ever contested -- decided by an average of 5.75 points (three by three points). The 255 combined points in the four games are the second-highest to the 265 scored in 2001.
Sixteen of the 28 games were decided by seven points or less.
- How's this for bad karma? Both Palmers -- Carson and UTEP's Jordan -- injured their knees in their teams' postseason games.
- Clemson did not allow a touchdown in 41 consecutive possessions before Colorado scored in the Champs Sports Bowl.
- The commissioners are leaning toward retaining the Harris Poll in the BCS formula. After much criticism and conflict of interest (one voting coach's son-in-law was an initial voter), the Harris poll basically mimicked the coaches poll.
- The 2007 BCS title game still doesn't have a name. Because of the double-hosting format, each BCS bowl will take turns hosting two games. Next year the traditional Fiesta Bowl will be played on or around Jan. 1. The (Your Name Here) BCS title game will be played approximately a week later
- Top five winning streaks going into 2006: Texas, 20; TCU, 10; Ohio State, 7; West Virginia, 7; Louisiana-Lafayette, Penn State, Nevada, 5. Top five losing streaks: New Mexico State, 13; Temple, 12; Syracuse, Illinois, Kent State, 9.