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Published: Thursday, 8/5/2004

Big Ten wants to get it right

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CHICAGO - The Big Ten will have an extra pair of eyes watching over its football games this season.

The conference will experiment with instant replay on a one-year trial basis, after getting final clearance from the NCAA in late February.

"I don't know what will come of the experiment,'' Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said yesterday during the conference's annual media day at the Hyatt Regency. "I think it could be successful and controversial.''

A technical adviser will be stationed in the press box to monitor each game through television, halt play for review if a call is questionable, and overrule the call if replays show "conclusive evidence'' it was in error.

Unlike the NFL's version of instant replay, there won't be red flags tossed on the field. Big Ten coaches will not be able to challenge calls.

"It's not a perfect world; it won't be a perfect system,'' said

Dave Parry, the Big Ten's coordinator of football officials. "We just hope it's better.''

Parry said the Big Ten will

employ six technical advisers - five former Big Ten officials and one former NFL official - who have more than 100 years of

experience on the field.

Instant replay will be used in all 44 conference games and in most of the 22 nonconference games played in Big Ten stadiums, pending approval of the visiting team. Big Ten assistant commissioner Mark Rudner said a few visiting schools already have decided against using instant replay, but he wouldn't name them.

Only specific plays will be

reviewable, and only those plays where the absolute standard of indisputable video evidence is met can a play be overturned only by the technical adviser.

"Indisputable means that it has to be clear and obvious,'' Parry said. "If there is any question or doubt, the call will stand as made by the officials. It has to be the type of play where, if 100 people were looking at it, all 100 would say, 'Hey, this is not a touchdown.' "

Hard, physical plays such as pass interference, holding,

illegal blocks, false starts, and roughing the quarterback will not be reviewable, since they are judgment calls.

The types of plays that are reviewable include ones that are governed by the sideline, goal line, end zone and end line, as well as passing plays and other detectable infractions, such as forward progress.

"We do not want to extend the length of the game, and that has been an issue,'' Parry said. "We are lucky in the Big Ten in that our average length per game is 3 hours, 13 minutes, whereas the national average is 3 hours, 19 minutes. We are still leading the pack toward having a nice, quick, spiffy football game, near three hours long. If we only have one or two replays every so often, we are not going to extend the length of the game significantly beyond what it is now. "

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he still has some concerns about instant replay, "but not that overrule the thought that we ought to look at it, and that is what we are doing. I think that we're looking at it is a good thing. I do have a little reservation in that when we are looking at a component of a game we are only going to try to correct some of the human errors.''

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr also was opposed to instant replay in the early stages of discussion - "I had visions of a system that was going to be very costly,'' he said - but has since changed his mind.

Rudner said it would cost the Big Ten less than $100,000 to operate the instant-replay system, since the majority of the conference's games are already televised.

"I do think they have come up with a system that gives us an opportunity to keep a game from being decided by a bad call,'' Carr said. "I don't think anybody can argue with that.''

The Big Ten operated a pilot program last year, not stopping games, but reviewing potentially disputed calls on Mondays.

Of 10,800 plays in 68 televised games last year, the conference found that 42 would have been subject to review. The rate of reversal was 54 percent, or 23 of 42 reviews would have been overturned. Eight to 12 of those plays could have been viewed as having a significant effect on the game.

"Our referees have been told that when the man upstairs speaks to you, he is the eye in the sky, and he is going to correct one of your mistakes,'' Parry said. "Be very grateful that this man saves you from potential embarrassment after the ballgame. We would come down very hard on any official whose ego is so strong that he would think, 'I don't care what this guy says, I'm saying with my call.' That won't happen.

"Our bottom line is justice. Let's get it right.''

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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