New Jersey high school football is going on the clock, and back under review.
The National Federation of State High School Associations approved the use of a 40-second play clock among other rule changes for all games this fall, bringing high school football more in line with the college and professional game.
The use of instant replay could also expand in New Jersey after the 2018 season was used as a pilot program, according to NJSIAA Replay Committee Chairman Carmine Picardo. That committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday.
The NFHS was clearly impressed with New Jersey’s high school football model, since it has cleared the way for other states to use their own instant replay systems for championship events. It’s up to the individual states to create their own usage models, although some have already sought out the New Jersey schematic.
Expanding instant replay
Instant replay was introduced last season amid some concern that it would slow the pace of games and was an unnecessary oversight. It was used only at games where both teams were utilizing Hudl Sideline technology, and only turnovers and touchdowns could be reviewed. Refs would review plays using iPads stationed on the sidelines with looks from as many as four different camera angles.
Data from the first year showed 65 different schools participated in a replay game. Of the 50 games where replay was available, there were 37 plays reviewed. Six were reversed. The most reviews in one game was three. The average time for the reviews was 2:30, with the longest being five minutes.
“We know it works, we know what the procedure is,” Picardo said.
The only blemish about instant replay came at the end of the season, when it became impossible for instant replay to be utilized for the bowl games and state championship games at MetLife Stadium because the company broadcasting the games did not have adequate equipment to put a viewscreen on the sidelines.
Picardo believes that issue can be rectified in 2019 by placing a “replay official” in the broadcast booth at MetLife who could signal to the field if/when a play needs to be looked at.
With a season of information at its disposal, the next step for instant replay is to broaden the ability for schools to use it. Picardo envisions a situation where the two schools make contact before the game and agree to use it provided both have the technology. Last year, Picardo assigned the different games each week.
“My hope is that they say, hey, if Team A and Team B have the equipment and as long as they agree, maybe fill out a form, boom, it’s a replay game,” Picardo said.
One sticking point is the cost of the Hudl Sideline technology. Although many schools use a form of Hudl (a film sharing computer database), not all can afford the extra cameras. Of the 320 schools playing football, 154 have the existing technology.
Adding a play clock
By switching to a 40-second play clock, it is hoped that the pace of play will increase and the ambiguity with regard to the game clock will decrease.
In the past, after a play ended, there could be a significant loss of time when the ball was spotted and the chains were moved before the 25-second play clock started. With the 40-second play clock, the official will signal for it to begin at the end of the previous down.
“This provides consistency from the time the player is down,” Picardo said.
Like in the past, the field judge will begin to ‘chop’ his hands when the play clock reaches five seconds to alert the offense.
Schools can purchase 40-second play display clocks for their fields. The cost is in the $3,000 to $6,000 for two. Schools that have those would also be responsible for paying a play clock official at games, though there is also technology that exist that ties in those display clocks to an official on the field. Schools are not required to purchase the display clocks. Time will be kept on the field.
Picardo plans to meet with the New Jersey Football Coaches Association in April to discuss instant replay, and there will be meetings in August with football coaches to go over the various rule changes for 2019.
As usual, most of the points of emphasis regarding rule changes from the NFHS have to do with increasing player safety. A new rule change in place for 2019 prohibits defenders from tripping ball carriers to tackle them. That will now result in a 10-yard penalty.