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. 

Instant Replay has been a key feature on the landscape of college football for a number of years. First experimented by the Big Ten Conference in 2005, it has been used by all ten FBS conferences since 2006. Now several FCS conferences also have Instant Replay for many of their games.

The purpose of Instant Replay is to change or sustain officiating rulings that are critical to the outcome of the game---plays involving what we call “competitive impact” on the game. The obvious ones are scoring plays and changes of possession. Did the runner punch the ball across the plane of the goal line for a touchdown? When the ball came out of the quarterback’s hand, was it a pass or a fumble? These are the kinds of rulings that are the most difficult to officiate in today’s high-speed game, and the technology is now available to scrutinize them in the greater detail offered by high-definition television. Beyond these obvious ones, the question often arises: what else should be reviewable?

Other important reviewable plays are those that involve a receiver completing the process of catching a pass, and whether a runner’s knee or elbow touched the ground before he lost possession of the ball. These are just two examples of plays for which the Instant Replay official may stop the game to review.      

So far the NCAA football rules committee has resisted the occasional suggestion to allow the review of fouls that are judgment calls by the official—holding, pass interference, clipping, formations---to name a few. Most people feel that stopping the game to review holding fouls, for example, would turn the game into a farce. In general, the Instant Replay official may not interrupt the game to review fouls that involve officiating judgment.

The rules do allow the Instant Replay official to review a small class of fouls—those that involve either touching the ball or the location of the ball in relation to a line. In the next column in this series, we’ll look more closely at these kinds of reviews.