HOOVER, Ala. -- The good news is that the questionable officiating at the end of last year's Tennessee-Florida game probably played a role in the SEC moving to an instant replay system this season.
The bad news is, even the new replay system would not have changed the outcome of the play in question.
Still, the coaches who addressed the media on the first day of SEC Media Days were happy that the conference now has some sort of replay system in place after the Big Ten adopted it last season.
"I kind of like the way we have it set up," new Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "I talked to several coaches in the Big Ten, and they are in favor of it. Any time you get to right a wrong, the way I look at it, I think it's good."
The system will be like the Big Ten system in that a replay official in the press box will be reviewing the plays and will alert the officials on the field if there is a play he feel should be changed.
Had Meyer been coaching the Gators last Sept. 18, he would certainly have been looking for a review of a key play in the final minute. With 55 seconds left and Florida up by a point, Tennessee stopped the Gators short of a first down on a third-down running play. Vols defensive back Jonathan Wade and Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker hit each other in the face at the end of the play right in front of an official, but only Baker was called for a personal foul on the play, stopping the clock and moving the Gators back 15 yards.
Fifteen very valuable yards, as it turned out, after the Vols won the game on a 50-yard field goal. To make matters worse for Florida, the conference announced the next day that the officials also should have started the clock again after walking off the penalty instead of waiting for the snap, a mistake that gave the Vols extra time to go along with the 15 yards of field position.
Of course, neither the missed shot to the face nor the clock blunder would be correctable under the system adopted for this season. Only certain types of plays are reviewable, including:
• Plays involving possession: complete/incomplete passes, fumbles, etc. • Scoring plays: Did the runner break the plane of the goal line? • Sideline plays: Did a runner step out of bounds? Did a receiver get a foot down in bounds?
Officials will have the opportunity to adjust the clock, but only if the adjustment is necessary after overturning a call on the field. For instance, if a runner stepped out of bounds 30 yards before originally thought, the time which ran off after that would be put back on the clock.
Penalties such as pass interference, holding or unsportsmanlike conduct are not reviewable. In the Tennessee-Florida example from last season, the foul on Baker would not have been reviewed, so the clock error would not have been avoided anyway.
Still, it is an opportunity to correct some mistakes that are obvious to anyone who gets a second look at a play. And even SEC coordinator of officials Bobby Gaston was happy with the number of plays that could be reviewed before the next snap.
"We're walking on uncharted waters, so subsequently we don't know totally what to expect," Gaston said. "We did practice this equipment at the Kentucky Spring game and we found amazingly so that we will able to review far more players and plays than we thought we could. We found that probably 7/8 of the plays, we had an opportunity to look at it twice in that 12 to 14 second dead period (between plays) and make a choice as to whether or not we wanted to stop the game."
While there are certain to be times when coaches would like a play reviewed and might wish they could call for a challenge like in the NFL system, most agreed they would just as soon not have to worry about it.
"I like what we're doing in college," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "It eliminates the coaches from even considering challenging this one or that one. If the head ref has a call that, well, we're not sure of, let's check it out. We got technology now to get it right. And I think it's a smart move and hopefully the head ref can make a quick call and look at it and make a decision and go and not hold the game up to much.
"Players train, work out year-round, coaches watch tape all summer, do everything and fans, you know, hate to lose a game because a referee missed a call. So if we can get it right, I think that's what we should do."