E.A. Sports Today

Replay review

AHSAA instant replay ‘experiment’ resulted in 25 percent of challenges being reversed during season, 38.5 percent in state title games


MONTGOMERY – One-quarter of the challenges requested during this first year of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s “experiment” into football instant replay were reversed this season, with a separate 38.5 reversal rate in the seven state championship games.

Those were the findings of a report the AHSAA disclosed Thursday.

For the year, DVSport Instant Replay was utilized by 96 different schools in 103 games for a total of 203 opportunities. The final tally showed 96 challenges and 23 calls on the field overturned – a rate of of 25.0 percent.

Twelve challenges were made by teams in the seven championship games with four calls overturned and one other reversal administered based on an automatic review of a scoring play for a 38.5 percent reversal rate. All scoring plays and potential scoring plays were reviewed automatically in the championship games.

AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese and former AHSAA Director of Officials Greg Brewer began working on implement ting Instant Replay in 2013 – when National Federation State High School Associations rules changed to allow the technology on the sideline for the coaches.

The NFHS granted permission to the AHSAA to experiment with instant replay for up to three years beginning with the 2018 season and two others states for its playoffs. The AHSAA partnered with Pittsburgh-based DVSport to implement instant replay in the regular season as well as post season play. DVSport equipment is required in Alabama for instant replay.

“Our first year of the experiment exceeded our expectations,” current AHSAA Director of Officials Mark Jones said. “It was demonstrated that instant replay can work with the limited camera angles we have available.  Most games usually two camera angles: one from the sideline (press box) and the other from the end zone.”

During the state championships, the AHSAA was able to utilize the same equipment – provided by DVSport – used by Auburn University during its home games. That allowed a review of all scoring or potential scoring plays from the booth without requiring a challenge by either coach.  

“Forward progress or spot of the ball was reversed three times at the Super 7,” Jones said. “There was a fumble call that was reversed to an incomplete pass along with one touchdown pass reversed to an incomplete pass upon review. Spotting of the ball was challenged six times, fumbles were challenged four times, and incomplete passes two times.”

The AHSAA also had the opportunity to demonstrate Instant Replay to the nation via one nationally televised game on ESPN and through numerous games live-streamed by the NFHS Network.

“The use of instant replay had insignificant impact on the length of the games,” Jones added. “Average replays took between 90 seconds to two minutes to review.”

Jones said that three times during the season a touchdown pass or incomplete pass in the end zone were overturned. Fumbles and forward progress made up 70 percent of the challenges. Others included: backward passes, breaking the goal-line plane, touching, out-of-bounds spots and player ejection.

Oxford and Handley both had the capability in their home stadiums this year. Piedmont coach Steve Smith challenged twice in the Bulldogs’ Class 3A state title game loss to Flomaton. The first call, challenging the spot, upheld the call on the field. The second, contending a punt returner’s knee was down before running, was overturned in the Bulldogs’ favor.

“The situation presented itself a couple times to throw the challenge flag and we felt it was legit,” Smith said after the game. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I understand that’s the way the game’s going. When they asked about doing it (before the season) I personally was one of those people who was opposed to it, just because I think it takes away a bit of the human element of the game … I was not a big fan of instant replay.

“I think it puts the referees under the microscope. They’re going to make mistakes. I know those guys are the best in the state; they get these assignments based on the merit that they’ve earned. I wouldn’t want their job whatsoever. They do the best they can do with the action happening as fast as it is. I know everybody says with replay you want to get it right. A lot of times as a coach I’d like to get it right myself. I don’t get that opportunity. People makes mistakes. That’s just part of the game.”

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