The goal is to get it right. The idea is to keep it simple.
Instant replay is coming to selected games this year in New Jersey high school football. The NJSIAA revealed the 24-page manual on its website Wednesday, detailing for the first time the exact process and what plays can and can’t be reviewed. New Jersey will be the first state in America to use replay extensively for regular season games.
“The overriding philosophy is if we can fix a really bad mistake that is made then why not?” said Carmine Picardo, the chairman of the NJSIAA’s Replay Committee and an architect of the plan. “It’s not because we’re the NFL, we don’t want to look at every item, but we don’t want a team to win or lose a game on an egregious error if we can fix it.”
Picardo will decide the games where replay will be an option for both teams. The first game is slated to be Aug. 30 between Pompton Lakes and New Milford, although Picardo said the system will also be tested at a handful of All-Star games next month throughout New Jersey.
The model follows similar procedures used by the NFL and NCAA. Coaches, and coaches alone, have the right to issue a challenge. They will get one per half, but a ‘special challenge’ will also be given to each team with under three minutes left in regulation.
Not every play is subject to challenges, just scoring plays and turnovers, with a few exceptions. Penalties will not be able to be reviewed.
Challenges will be indicated by a coach asking for a timeout and asking for a replay challenge (no red flag in a sock). Officials will motion to stop play.
And now here comes the technology part. The NJSIAA has entered into a partnership with HUDL, the software and hardware company that coaches use for game film exchange and study. In order to use replay at game, the schools must be equipped with the two-camera HUDL Sideline technology. One camera in the end zone and one along the sidelines.
Once a challenge is signaled, the officials will go toward a “Replay Center” along the home team’s sideline. They will have access to iPads linked to the HUDL Sideline technology and he will review the play in question inside a small canopy or tent.
After that, he will make one of three calls. Either the call is confirmed by video replay, the call stands because there is not enough video evidence to overturn it, or the call is reversed.
Picardo said schools are being encouraged to equip officials with wireless microphones to inform the crowd of the decision. There will be no time limit for the officials to make the final call. A team loses a timeout if the call is not overturned.
Picardo also stressed that one of the goals is for the schools not to have to incur further costs. Many schools already possess HUDL Sideline technology. He also said that HUDL would be sending out a guideline for the best way to film games, thereby presenting more of a uniform standard for teams to follow.
“HUDL Sideline is a technology that allows for instant replay, and we know the schools are getting it for coaching purposes,” Picardo said. “The money they have invested in the system has already been invested. There is really no downside to a school participating in replay.”
At first, the goal was to have just a handful of games in New Jersey be replay games, but Picardo said the early response from athletic directors has been so positive that he can see as many as four or five games a week statewide using replay. The plan is to also use replay for all 13 “Bowl Games” at MetLife Stadium the last week of the season, but the NJSIAA has already been in contact with stadium officials about using the NFL equipment already in place there.
Part of the idea going forward is to make it as convenient as possible for both schools, that, hypothetically, officials can show up at a game, confer with coaches and ascertain whether the technology is available and usable. If so, it can be used.
The manual is expected to be ratified by the NJSIAA’s Executive Committee at its June meeting. The document is very thorough, listing special cases when the system can and can’t be used. Picardo said that full-time NFL official Ed Camp consulted on some of the language and processes.
Of course, there are always caveats. Challenges will not be allowed if a team is up by 17 or more points with under two minutes to play, or if a game reaches the 35-point running clock threshold. Teams also get one challenge at the start of every overtime (but they don’t accrue). Field goals and extra points can also be reviewed, but only whether the ball sailed over the crossbar and between the uprights.
If a team has used up all three of its timeouts, it can still use its ‘special challenge’ with under three minutes to go, but if the call stands, that team will incur a five-yard penalty.
Picardo also outlined a scenario where a turnover is overturned, but if one team commits a flagrant foul on the play the penalty will still be marked off, regardless of the final decision. Officials will not ignore a penalty that endangers the safety of a player, even if technically, the play did not count.
Work on establishing the guidelines and process has been going on for months, but are just now coming to light. The easiest way to look at this is, the technology already exists and players, coaches, and officials want to get the calls right.
“Everyone has to understand it’s high school football, and we don’t want to get carried away,” Picardo said. “We want to make sure we can fix a bad mistake, and we think we can do it.”