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Big Ten to experiment with program for instant replay

Friday, August 15, 2003

A comprehensive review of its football officiating requested by Penn State Coach Joe Paterno and Athletic Director Tim Curley, has been concluded by the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Commissioner Jim Delany announced the league will implement new measures to improve the quality of officiating, including a experimental pilot program for instant replay, but did not address Penn State's most pressing concern.

Penn State had complained about officials working games in states in which they reside. Paterno cited recent games with Michigan and questionable calls by officials who were Michigan residents.

Delany said the way crews are assigned to games will not change because he believes in each official's integrity.

"We will continue to assign crews as we always have," Delany said. "This is the standard in the NFL and every other major I-A conference."

Curley said crew assignments will continue to be a concern for the Lions but was otherwise pleased with the thorough review.

"We may not agree with the final outcome of some things," Curley said. "Some of us continue to be concerned, particularly at Penn State. But if you look at the NFL and other college conferences, it's not something that is being done. Even with that fact in, we still prefer for it not to happen."

The pilot program for replay will not interfere with games and missed calls will not be overturned. It will be used as a data gathering exercise only and will be evaluated by conference officials and coaches at the end of the season.

Big Ten coaches unanimously voted to implement a replay system, but the athletic directors did not have a majority vote to pass a measure.

If the conference decides it would like to implement a replay system after this season it would need permission from the NCAA rules committee.

"I can see the case for and against instant replay," Delany said. "Reasonable people can differ. I've seen video used in college basketball and the NBA in a reasonable way. I question to some extent the amount it is used in the NFL. I can see how it has an effect that's negative. I can see the positives as well."

Curley believes the pilot program is a good first step toward implementing a replay system in the conference, perhaps as soon as the 2004 season.

"The pilot program gives us the opportunity to take the next step. We can find out what bugs need to be worked out. It's a good thing. Can it be done for 2004? It could. But then it would have to go to the rules committee, and then the decision is out of the conference's hands."

Big Ten supervisor of officials David Parry poured over the 13,000 plays that took place last season in Big Ten games. He came to the conclusion that 15 to 20 plays would have been overturned using an NFL standard replay system.

Parry also said Big Ten officials made 4.1 mistakes per game this season, up from 2001 but on average with the past five years. Delany said the numbers are better than most other I-A conferences.

Other measures to help improve the officiating include more official participation in spring and summer workouts and better relationships with the lower conferences from which the conference promotes officials. The conference decided against forming a national pool of officials that all major conferences could select from.

Also yesterday, the conference announced four initiatives for better crowd control after several incidents last season.

Home teams will be responsible for more security for visiting teams and officials.

Student sections will be closely monitored for bad behavior.

Videoboards will be prohibited from showing controversial replays of missed calls by officials.

A communications plan entitled "Respect the game" will be promoted among students, administration, alumni and fans.

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