NFHS approves rule to permit instant replay in high school football

Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar

The National Federation of State High School Associations approved a rule to permit state associations to create instant-replay procedures for state football postseason contests only.

But that does not mean high football officials in Indiana this fall will spend any time staring a tablet with a headset on. The new NFHS rule allows state associations to implement instant replay, but there is no requirement.

“We have not surveyed our members on the idea of instant replay,” Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox said. “If we were to take a look at it, it would be only for the state championship game. The technology is improving from year to year, but there are a lot of other issues when you are shooting games at school facilities, like how many cameras you have and what are you going to review. There are a lot of questions to answer, but I think it is something that could grow over time.”

The IHSAA has a rule in place that allows for instant replay on a last-second shot in the basketball state finals at the end of regulation and in overtime.

Alabama was the first state to use instant replay for football, receiving a three-year authorization last year from the NFHS to test instant replay. New Jersey, Minnesota and Texas are using replay in postseason games.

“The ultimate goal of each game official and each officiating crew is to get the call correct,” said Todd Tharp, the assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and chair of the NFHS football rules committee. “Each state association, by individual adoption, can now use replay or video monitoring during its respective postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Each state association, if it adopts this rules revision, will also create the parameters and scope of the replay.”

The New Palestine Dragons are awarded the championship trophy after winning the IHSAA Class 5A football State Championship game between New Palestine High School and Decatur Central High School, held at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.  (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

Cox has mixed feelings about the use of instant replay at the high school level.

“We just had two NFL conference championship games on national television where mistakes are made and you have every piece of technology available,” he said. “Is that the kind of pressure you want to put on officials at the high school level? We have a hard time keeping them as it is now. On the other hand, you want to get the call right. But I’ve never seen a game that was perfectly coached or perfectly played, either.”

The NFHS also made the change to a 40-second play clock in football. Indiana was at the forefront of the change, use a 40-second play clock on a trial basis for past three seasons. IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens collected data each of the last three years to submit to the NFHS. The vote failed to pass each of the last two years before going through this time.

“We felt like there was an opportunity to make the games more consistent with a 40-second play clock,” said Cox, who added that high school games in Indiana were played in 2 hours and 20 minutes on average last season. “We were happy to see it passed. The coaches and officials here have been supportive. It helps to keep the game moving.”

The 40-second clock starts at the end of the previous play. Previously, the ball was marked ready for play when the referee gave the ready-for-play signal and the 25-second count began. The 25-second clock will still be used in certain situations, such as a point-after-touchdown, the start of overtime and the play after a timeout.

Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

More Football