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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Instant replay OK'd for all MAC games

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It didn't take long for Gregg Brandon to remember a moment when he's wished for instant replay. Brandon, Bowling Green State University football coach, flashed back nine months ago to his team's game against Northern Illinois.

In highlights shown on ESPN later that evening, Brandon saw BGSU defensive back Keon Newson strip Huskies running back Garrett Wolfe of the football before Wolfe crossed the goal line in a second-quarter play. The play should have awarded the Falcons the ball on their 20-yard line as a touchback, but instead put NIU up by two touchdowns.

"They kicked our butt anyway," Brandon said, "but it sure would have been nice to have the right call there."

Brandon and other Mid-American Conference coaches are getting their wish. Following the lead of the Big Ten Conference, the MAC has decided to implement instant replay in its conference games for the upcoming season.

The Big Ten used instant replay on a trial basis last season. Nine of Division I-A's 11 conferences will use instant replay in some form next season, and the NCAA is expected to write instant replay into its bylaws, effective for the 2006 season.

Some conferences are tweaking the Big Ten's method, but MAC conference games and some non-conference home games will feature a replay system that mirrors the Big Ten's, said Bob Gennarelli, MAC associate commissioner of external operations. The only difference is that the MAC will not use TiVo to view the play again, it will instead use video feeds from the television production truck.

At each conference game, a technical adviser and communicator seated in the press box will be on the lookout for possible referee miscues. These two officials are the only ones who can dispute a call. Reviewable plays are basically limited to scoring plays, fumbles, out-of-bounds calls and possession on receptions. Judgment calls will stand.

University of Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said the Rockets' game against Big Ten school Minnesota last year sold him on instant replay.

"I'm very much in favor of utilizing this technology in the MAC," Amstutz said.

Last season in the Big Ten, play was stopped in 28 of 57 games. There were 43 stoppages and 21 overturned calls.

"If the advisor can be on top of those bang-bang plays, I think it's something that will work," Brandon said. "It's certainly worth a try."

A couple initial hindrances for some MAC schools were that not all games are televised, making replay difficult, and there wasn't room in the press box for the technical advisor and communicator to have a secluded seat.

Gennarelli said the schools agreed that if the school had nowhere to place the technical advisor, the visiting athletic director would give up his box.

He estimated a possible 12 to 14 of 48 league games that won't be on national or regional television. For those, the MAC will hire a video crew with three to four camera feeds for replay-only production. Each school will pay a seasonal fee of $12,000 to 14,000 for this cost. Along with an estimated $2,500 to $3,000 for equipment for the replay box at each school, instant replay will cost each MAC school $14,500 to $17,000. The MAC will cover the technical advisor and communicator's pay.

This summer the MAC technical advisors will attend a mandatory replay clinic in Chicago hosted by the Big Ten. The leagues have worked well together lately; they are in talks to sign a scheduling agreement this summer.

"The more we can do in collaborating and cooperation is only going to benefit both leagues, especially the Mid-American Conference," Gennarelli said.

Gennarelli said the league is discussing with UT using instant replay in its season opener at home against Western Illinois.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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