Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, provides insights about rules changes and the mindset of college football referees. The CFO is the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level.

In last week’s column we looked at the history and purpose of Instant Replay. This week we will see how it really works and who is involved in making it happen.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about Instant Replay is that
every play is reviewed. The issue for the Instant Replay Official (IRO) is whether to stop the game for additional review which will result in either sustaining or reversing the ruling on the field. In addition to the IRO interrupting the game for a review, either head coach may challenge the ruling on the field if his team has a timeout available. Each head coach has one challenge for the game, except that if the coach’s challenge is successful he retains the ability to challenge one more time, for a maximum of two. If a challenge is unsuccessful, the team is charged a timeout (one of its three in each half) and the coach is then out of challenges.

The second key to understanding Instant Replay is this: the fundamental assumption is that the ruling on the field is correct. This means that the IRO is examining the play see if the ruling is incorrect. Only if the video evidence proves beyond all doubt that the ruling is wrong is he allowed to reverse it. Once the IRO decides to stop the game for a review, he quickly communicates this to the officials on the field with a paging system. Then the IRO and his assistant (called the Communicator) examine the video provided by the TV network, using high definition monitors and sophisticated recording/playback technology to examine the play. The IRO then makes a decision either to confirm or overturn a ruling, when the video evidence is conclusive either way, or to let the ruling on the field stand. He communicates his decision to the referee on the field, who in turn announces the result.

Not every play is reviewable. The rules allow the IRO to review such plays as scoring plays, turnovers, fumbles, and pass receptions. With very few exceptions, fouls may not be reviewed.

Most IRO’s are former college football officials. Each conference assigns IRO’s and Communicators to games, in much the same way that it assigns the officials on the field. They go through extensive training in the rules and practice of Instant Replay, with particular emphasis on the rules of reviewability and the use of the video review technology.