Football

ACC football coaches support centralized replay review system

Duke cornerback Alonzo Saxton tackles Miami's running back Mark Walton during the eight-lateral play at the end of the Oct. 31 game. After a long video review of the play game officials ruled the Hurricanes player was not down and gave Miami the touchdown and win.
Duke cornerback Alonzo Saxton tackles Miami's running back Mark Walton during the eight-lateral play at the end of the Oct. 31 game. After a long video review of the play game officials ruled the Hurricanes player was not down and gave Miami the touchdown and win. Grant Shorin Duke Sports Information

ACC football coaches are embracing technology in some ways and eschewing it – for now – in others.

The coaches during the league’s annual spring meetings on Wednesday voted in favor of a centralized replay system in the ACC. The details would have to be finalized but such a system would allow for controversial calls and plays to reviewed by replay officials at league headquarters in Greensboro.

Those replay officials would then be in communication with the officials on the field, working a game. In theory, the system would reduce the likelihood of mistakes – the kind, for instance, that cost Duke a victory against Miami amid an end-of-game officiating fiasco last season.

“I think it could help,” David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils coach, wryly said of what some have described as a replay command center.

Cutcliffe and the league’s coaches voted unanimously in favor of the centralized replay review. The NFL has used a similar system the past two years.

And so that was one victory for technology during the spring meetings – that the ACC’s coaches want to use it in hopes of ensuring fewer officiating mistakes. Elsewhere, though, technology wasn’t so victorious.

The football coaches spent “a lot of time,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said, debating the use of various gameday technologies. Specifically, coaches discussed whether they should be allowed to watch video on iPads, or other tablet computers, during games.

That’s against the rules, which means that during games it’s arguable that coaches and players have less available insight about why a play worked, or didn’t, than viewers watching on television. On TV, at least, replays can show how a play broke down – or how it worked.

As advances with TV have revolutionized the viewing experience for fans watching at home, coaches haven’t experienced the same benefit – during games, at least – from technological advances. Some ACC coaches would like for that to change.

“Picture iPads on the sideline, like you see in the NFL – being able to look at an iPad in between series or up in your press box,” Doeren said. “Right now we can’t use any technology like that. It’s all, you have to write things down, draw pictures, you know, that’s what we do.

“NFL, and even high schools are able to use tablets (during) the games. Some of them can show live footage in between series even on the sideline to their players. We can’t do any of that.”

I think technology is good. You know exactly what you’re coaching and what you’re seeing.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher

And they won’t be able to do that for the foreseeable future, either. The league’s coaches were split over allowing access to tablet video during games, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said more coaches voted against the idea than supported it.

Fisher, for one, is in favor of allowing that kind of technology into the game.

“Having the iPads and making the adjustments, to me, and trying to get it right – that’s my vote,” he said. “But a lot of them want the old school, which I understand. I have no problem with that.

“I think technology is good. You know exactly what you’re coaching and what you’re seeing.”

Coaches have access to an array of video after games. And many coaches are often quick to answer questions in a postgame press conference with a line that long become a staple of coaching cliches: That before they can really say anything, they need to study the game film first.

The use of a iPad video – or video viewed on a tablet or other device – would allow for coaches to educate themselves at a quicker rate. It’d also allow coaches to offer immediate feedback to their players. That’s why Fisher supports the idea.

“You know exactly what’s wrong with a play,” he said. “Which kid made the mistake, how to correct him, how to show him … just like you do in a film session (but) in between plays.”

While the idea was tabled, for now, it could only be a matter of time before in-game video reviews become a regular part of a coach’s work flow on gamedays. The centralized replay system, meanwhile, is one technological advance where the ACC’s coaches have found common ground.

The league’s athletic directors will vote on centralized replay review on Thursday during the final day of meetings. If they approve, then the ACC’s faculty athletic representatives could make it official during a vote later in the day.

“I think any time you can get a call right ... I mean, lives are depending on this,” Fisher said. “Careers and (players), what they can achieve – I think any time you can get it right, we’re for it.”

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