Replay changes up in air

Coach's challenges being considered

? As with any new setup, the Big 12 Conference’s football instant-replay system is being closely examined for potential changes.

One of the most intriguing is the ability of a coach to challenge a call. Last year, the Big 12 gave coaches no such right, in part because only two – Nebraska’s Bill Callahan and Baylor’s Guy Morriss – were advocates of having that responsibility.

According to Tim Millis, the Big 12’s supervisor of football officiating, many coaches changed their opinions after the 2005 season – partly because powerless coaches were forced to burn timeouts during situations in which they felt a challenge was needed. The timeouts were used strategically to give replay officials more time to decide whether a call needed review.

After a season of replay, the coaches were surveyed again. Millis said now, eight coaches were in favor, two were against and two were riding the fence.

Whether those eight get their wish is undetermined. Currently, a rule allowing for at least one coach’s challenge per game is making its way through NCAA committees.

In the NFL, coach challenges are the only method of replay during games, except during the last two minutes of the half. Millis doesn’t anticipate colleges will follow suit, instead keeping some power with the officials in the replay booth.

The reason? NFL coaches have assistants in the booths using TV monitors to examine plays. College coaches aren’t allowed the same luxury, and would have immense pressure as a result.

Other things Millis anticipated were fewer official-ordered challenges, particularly on plays they were confident wouldn’t be reversed.

“If we know we’re not going to change it, we’re not going to stop the game,” Millis said. “We overreacted to that last year.”

Millis said 93 calls were challenged in the 2005 regular season, and 32 were reversed. Challenges took an average of 1 minute, 32 seconds to complete in the Big 12, significantly less than the national average of 1:55.

Other points of emphasis for Big 12 officiating this offseason included better protecting of the quarterback. Millis said approximately 10 late or helmet-to-helmet hits on quarterbacks were missed by officials in ’05, due in large part to being out of position. The number of missed calls dwindled as the season progressed, but the loudest hit came in the Big 12 championship game, when Colorado’s Joel Klatt was knocked out by a vicious blow against Texas. No flag was thrown on the play.