Thursday, October 19, 2017

Will video replays be a part of high school football?

Carmine Picardo, coordinator of football officials for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said recently the statewide athletic association is exploring the possibility of implementing a pilot program in which select schools would voluntarily participate in use of video replays to help officiate game.

According to Picardo, only schools who use HUDL Sideline, a wireless program that allows game action from press box and end zone angles to be instantly replayed on a tablet device, would be eligible.

Picardo said NJSIAA Assistant Director Jack DuBois will be reaching out “in the next couple of days” to the National Federation of High School Associations, whose approval for replay review at the scholastic level is required.

Locally, just three weeks ago, a running back for an Elk Grove Unified School District team broke off on a 60-yard run for a touchdown. Following the customary body bumps, hugs and high-fives, he headed to the area behind his bench and punched up a video replay of his touchdown run on a HUDL Sideline interface his team had set up. He anxiously commented to teammates within ear shot how good he looked running for six points.

That part of the touchdown celebration is becoming more and more common, too. For the football programs that have roughly $10,000, the money needed for cameras, wireless transmitters and receivers, Microsoft Surface tablets or I-pads and the HUDL Sideline app, that is.

It wasn’t but four years ago that NFHS approved the idea of instant video replays on the sidelines, according to Sac-Joaquin Section assistant commissioner Will DeBoard.
“It’s legal,” DeBoard said of the video aids. “If a team wants to use electronics on the sidelines to coach their kids, they are allowed to do that.”

The NHFS currently allows coaches to utilize video review on the sidelines during games as a teaching tool for players who come off the field following a specific down or series of downs. Texas and Massachusetts are the only states whose athletic associations currently prohibit coaches from reviewing video with their players on the sidelines.

Coaches and players convene in front of a large video monitor behind the Elk Grove football team’s bench during a recent game to watch re-plays. More and more High School football teams are purchasing this kind of equipment that almost instantly replays game action to monitors and hand-held devices on the sidelines.

New Jersey’s proposal submitted to the NFHS would be for permission to review only plays involving fumbles, catches, touchdowns and out-of-bounds calls. Picardo said he believed the NJSIAA would ask the NFHS for permission to review play calls in select scrimmages and regular-season games for the first year of a proposed pilot program, with the hope of expanding the program in future seasons. Picardo said he believed the proposal would allow each coach to challenge one play per half and to possibly allow officials to review any plays in the final two minutes of a game. Picardo said a replay official would not be required and that game officials could review the play using one of the team’s tablets on the sidelines.

While that debate is ongoing, there is another question arising out of the use of this kind of technology during football games: “Is there a competitive disadvantage for the teams that don’t have instant video playback capabilities?”

DeBoard just isn’t certain.

“I’ve seen schools out there with every imaginable device with all the bells and whistles out there lose to schools that doesn’t have anything, with the exception of one coach talking on a headphone to another coach in the press box,” he said.

He says it’s a bit like the school with 15 coaches on the sidelines playing the school that has one or two football coaches. 

Most high school football programs now have video cameras posted on tall periscope monopods in the end zone. The two small white plates on a pole in the left portion of the photograph are wireless communicators which send the videos from the camera instantly to another similar device in the bleachers where there is a second camera, or even, a third camera. Coaches with computer tablets on the sidelines can view the videos instantly.

“I could see where (video on-demand) could be a bit of an advantage, but it depends on how you use it,” DeBoard said. “I also see a lot of our very successful programs in our Section who have some money who choose not to go down that road with all the electronics.”
He also figures that there are ways to coach against all the electronics.

“If I was on the other side and know that they could see what I do, with say, my tight end, I may line up with the tight end in that spot, but run something different,” DeBoard said.

But, as one EGUSD coach who asked to remain nameless, said: “It wouldn’t help us because we’re not that deep. Our guys are staying out on the field. For the team that has that depth and can pull all eleven guys off the field to watch video, then (the sideline video equipment) is for them.”


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