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Big Ten to experiment with instant replay

| Friday, Aug. 15, 2003

The Big Ten on Thursday backed the performance of its football referees, but also announced it will conduct a dry run of instant replay this season.

The pilot program will be used in selected league games, and will make use of network television video feeds. It will be only an evaluation process, however; game action will not be affected and calls will not be changed.

"We possibly have had games turn on officiating," commissioner Jim Delany said. "We would be working to see whether or not those calls which would be reversed would justify the intrusion, the extension of the game, as well as the cost."

The results of the test will not be made public. Delany said a regular replay setup could cost between $2 million and "tens of millions" annually, but he did not give a budget for the test run.

Delany was not sure how many games will be included in the test.

"I don't know whether we'll do six games or 26," he said.

The Big Ten is the first conference to move this close to adopting the actual use of instant replay.

At the request of Penn State -- which was on the short end of controversial calls in three games last season -- the conference recently completed an evaluation of its game officials. In releasing the study's results, Delany said the league and its referees are "at the forefront of training, evaluation and accountability."

Delany noted that 17 former Big Ten officials have been hired by the NFL over the past dozen years -- more than any other conference in the same span.

"That's a pretty good benchmark," he said.

Delany said Big Ten officials averaged four "flaws" per game in 2002, which was comparable to the number in recent seasons. Dave Parry, the Big Ten director of officials, determined there were 15 to 20 calls last season that would have been reversed using replay.

Last month, at the league's preseason media day in Chicago, Parry admitted a blown call hurt Penn State in the waning minutes of regulation in against Michigan. Penn State lost the game in overtime.

"We made some mistakes," Parry said. "Everybody does."

In May, the Big Ten football coaches voted 11-0 to support the use of instant replay. The league's referees also backed the plan, but the athletic directors shot it down by a 6-5 vote.

"We don't want an NFL (type of) replay," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "We just want some way that an obvious bad call that would have an impact on the outcome of the game could be corrected."

"We're not trying to make the game perfect. We're just trying to get it right," said Illinois coach Ron Turner.

The Big Ten does not need NCAA approval simply to study instant replay.

The legaue was given the OK by the NCAA rules committee to use instant replay last season, but the league opted not to try it.

The Big Ten would have to reapply for permission if it decides to officially use replay next year. However, it is unlikely the conference would make the move without having support from other leagues.

"We probably could not stand alone on an issue like this," Delany said. "Because what it would mean is that we could only do our own conference games. We'd have a set of standards for confernce (games), another for non-conference (games), and everybody else would have a different set of standards. That would be really difficult and unwise."

Other items addressed yesterday by Delany included:

  • The Big Ten is mulling ways it can work with other conferences in training and possibly even assigning officials.

    Big Ten ADs and coaches were against sharing officials with leagues such as the Big East and Big 12. However, the Big Ten might someday share its officials with midwestern groups such as the Mid-American, Gateway and Atlantic 10.

  • The Big Ten will not change the way it assigns game officials.

    "We will continue to assign by crews," Delany said. "And we will ont take the residence of crew members into consideration when assigning games."

  • League officials will staff portions of spring practices, spring games and fall camps.

  • The conference passed a four-point plan for crowd control at football and basketball games. Security for visiting teams must be beefed up, student sections will come under closer scrutiny, and potentially controversial plays or calls will no longer be shown on video scoreboards.

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