In a dramatic shift of technological and egalitarian might, the Alabama High School Athletic Association board voted to approve instant replay across all high school football games in the state. The move comes in spite of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) rule which outlaws instant replay in high school football; the NFHS has granted Alabama a three-year exemption to use instant replay on a trial basis.
According to AL.com, the AHSAA is partnering with DVsport, a company that specializes in instant replay. DVsport will provide equipment to schools so they can use instant replay, though the system provided to all schools at a minimal cost will include just one camera. Further cameras can be purchased to improve the instant replay technology, but that will likely only occur at schools with funds to do so.
“It’s an experiment,” Mark Jones, the AHSAA’s Director of Officials, told AL.com. “We’ll find things we may need to tweak or do better.”
The AHSAA system will be initiated by a coach’s challenge, just as occurs in the NFL and college football. AL.com provided more details about how the review would occur:
Some calls, including penalties, will not be reviewable, but plays such as whether a player made a catch, whether a play was a fumble, if a player stepped out of bounds, or if a player broke the plane of the goal line for a touchdown are expected to be reviewable.
Coaches will be allowed two challenges. if he wins the challenge, he still has two remaining. If he loses the challenge, he has one challenge remaining and loses a timeout. If the team has no timeouts, his team is hit with a delay of game penalty.
According to AL.com, officials are in full support of implementing the system, even though the cost to implement and operate the system remains to be seen. According to UMS-Wright head football coach Terry Curtis, who spoke to AL.com, the hardware set-up will be less than $5,000 per school while the annual service cost paid to DVsport will be $1,500 at most. AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said the terms couldn’t be released because DVsport is currently negotiating similar agreements with other states.
A total of $6,500 for the first year, and $1,500 annually thereafter isn’t an overwhelming expense, but it is still an expense for cash-strapped programs that could use those funds elsewhere on things like new helmets or uniforms. And that’s assuming these campuses don’t feel significant pressure to add additional cameras to keep up with the Joneses (or Hoover’s, perhaps).
Still, for now Alabama is blazing a trail forward as the first state to bring on instant replay across all games, and not just championship or playoff contests.