Big Ten to experiment with instant replay

Brett Angel

Beginning this season, the Big Ten will experiment with a behind-the-scenes instant replay system to test the consequences replay might have on the college game and its officiating, Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany announced Thursday.

The decision was essentially the result of a comprehensive review of conference officiating, spurred by Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and athletics director Tim Curley after several controversial calls against the Lions last season.

After reviewing some 13,000 plays from the 2002 season, only 15 to 20 calls would have been reversed using replay, Delany said.

He also said officials made an average of four flawed calls per game, a number “well within the range of previous years.”

The 11 football coaches in the Big Ten voted unanimously for the review.

As part of the pilot program, which will be guided by rules similar to the challenge-based replay system currently in place in the NFL, a technical coordinator will act as a “straw” head coach and record the number of instances when replay might be used to determine whether it would be worth the cost.

“We will attempt to use this as a data gathering and evaluating exercise only,” Delany said. “Games and game outcomes will not be affected.”

Delany said the pilot program would not necessarily lead to the adoption of a full-scale instant replay program in 2004. For that to happen, the plan would have to be approved by the NCAA rules committee. No approval is necessary for the current experiment.

“I’m all for it; absolutely all for it,” Minnesota football coach Glen Mason said. “Nobody remembers how fast you did it, it’s whether you did it right.”

Crowd control

Delany also announced four initiatives to help curtail problems at Big Ten sporting events arising from rowdy crowd behavior.

Under the new plan, video boards will not be allowed to show images of plays when “the officiating is considered a substantial part of the play.” Television replays will not be affected.

Also under the new plan, school bands will be moved away from the visiting team’s bench area at basketball games to discourage negative incidents.

Kicking it around

Nearly two weeks into fall practice, the Gophers’ kicking game remains wide open.

Minnesota brought in veteran place kicker Ryan Duffy at the beginning of last week to give transfer Ryan Donahue and freshman Zach Schauf some added competition.

“The competition level has gotten higher,” Donahue said. “All three guys are doing well. I think (the kicking game) is better than coaches expected.”

When asked about his kickers, Mason answered, “You either make (field goals) or you don’t.”

As for the punting, tight end Ben Utecht took snaps with the special teams unit last week and is challenging freshmen Mark Rivers and Dan Ness for the job. Utecht, considered one of the best tight ends in the country, was an All-State punter in his high school days at Hastings.

“I’d have to say, if we played Saturday (Aug. 16) he’d punt,” Mason said of Utecht.

Still healing

Junior-college transfer Paris Hamilton, expected to be a major contributor at wide receiver this season, has shown considerable progress in recovering from the left- knee injury he suffered a month ago.

Hamilton continues to rehab his knee three times a day and practices with a brace, but he has participated in most team drills – except for full contact – and demonstrated the ability to do some lateral cutting.

“It’s getting better every day,” Hamilton said.

Brett Angel covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]