SBD/March 25, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Owners Approve Rule Allowing Refs To Consult Officiating Department During Reviews

Replays could soon involve officials at NFL HQ to improve consistency
NFL owners today passed a rule allowing referees to "consult with the officiating department in New York during replay reviews," according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. The existing NFL Officiating Command Center "immediately will begin to review replays after the call is challenged." When the referee "gets to his 'booth,' the command center can advise the referee on what to look for in the play." Referees ultimately will make the "final choice on the play." Implementing the rule "should prevent obvious mistakes from happening" (NFL.com, 3/25). NEWSDAY's Bob Glauber notes NFL VP/Officiating Dean Blandino would "be among those in direct contact with on-field officials if a call is subject to a replay review." Blandino yesterday at the owners meetings in Orlando explained that he and his staff would "be able to review a play before the referee gets to the on-field monitor to look at replays." Blandino said, "It's still a referee review, and he has the ultimate authority. We'll come to a consensus. It will be a discussion. We will have already started looking at it, and we can give him our input to put him in the position to make the right call and come to a conclusion." Blandino said that the system would be "used to improve consistency on reviewed calls from game to game" (NEWSDAY, 3/25). Meanwhile, SI.com's Don Banks noted there is a proposed change that would allow coaches to "challenge any official's decision, except on scoring plays, which already are automatically replay-reviewed." Of all the proposed rule changes, that is the "clear-cut favorite of the NFL's head coaching crowd." However, it "probably rates as the longest of the long shots to gain passage." An anonymous coach said, "Every time we bring it up, they just look at us like we have three heads. They just stick with these tired old lines like, 'We've got to keep the game in the referee's hands'" (SI.com, 3/24).

DON'T LENGTHEN THE GAME: In Pittsburgh, Alan Robinson wondered how the NFL can "improve the officiating, and the replay process, without further spilling over into '60 Minutes.'” Steelers President Art Rooney II said, “That to me is one of the main things, we don’t want a longer game. We don’t want it to take longer for replay. The question of having it go to the league office, that would be one of my questions about that, and I think that’s one of the reasons they didn’t want to rush into making a decision this year. Again, our goal is to get it right, not necessarily to have more replays or more delays in the game" (TRIBLIVE.com, 3/21). FS1’s Kirk Morrison said, "We want the game sped up. We don’t like these timeouts, these long waits and being on the football field." FS1's Mike Pereira added, “I actually think the process will speed up because the referee is going to be communicating with the replay official at all times during the game. So when a challenge is made, he can talk to him on the way to the monitor. So all of that preliminary stuff will be done, and I think this will certainly not add time, but may actually cut the time a little bit" ("Fox Football Daily," FS1, 3/24).

KEEPING THINGS BALANCED: THE MMQB's Peter King reports when the NFL goes to a 14-team playoff structure, it will "not consider two teams playing a playoff game on a very short week ... simply because of the effect on competitive balance." Reports had surfaced that the NFL might play those games "on a variety of days on a slow weekend on the sports calendar -- the first weekend of the New Year usually." But it would be unfair to ask a team to "play their biggest game of the year on a short week when the options otherwise are plentiful." It is more likely a triple-header would be played on Saturday and Sunday, or "two games Saturday, three Sunday and one Monday night." The second option is "most popular, because it would allow the NFL to have the lead prime-time show on three straight nights in early January" (MMQB.SI.com, 3/25).

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: ESPN.com's John Clayton reported owners yesterday voted to invest another $45M "over the next five years in USA Football." The organization is "trying to reach out to parents to allow their children to play the sport, which has seen a drop in participation." USA Football has "reached out to 2,600 leagues and more than 90,000 coaches, along with 600,000 youth football prospects, to encourage kids to play the game." This investment is "expected to get more families to let their kids play" (ESPN.com, 3/24). Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Paul Dehner Jr. reports Pro Football HOFer Anthony Munoz and his son, former Univ. of Tennessee OT Michael Munoz, yesterday addressed the owners "regarding the progress of his agency's character camps which have served as a Hispanic initiative." They have "already been successfully injected into 14 NFL cities and hope to grow it to the other 18" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/25).
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