Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Previous Play is Under Review...

I recently read an article on the NCAA’s clarification of the “no goal” during the Men’s Hockey National Championship game. So what was the reason for the reversal? That Kyle Lawson used a distinct kicking motion which is defined as “a skate moving toward the goal line.” This seems to me to be a terrible definition, but I don’t think it is the real problem. The root of the problem lies in the role of instant replay review.

I delved into the NCAA Hockey Rulebook to see what I could find. One of the duties of the reviewer, outlined specifically in the rules, is to review every goal. The reviewer has the power to stop the game and review a goal, or any play, when he sees fit. To my surprise, the Instant Replay rule for football is the same way. My impression was that replay officials were supposed to play a passive role in games. They were there to be used when the on-ice officials needed help on a call. I thought that indisputable evidence was necessary for overturning a call. It is in football, but where is the mention of the need for indisputable evidence in the Hockey rules? This is the first problem with the instant replay rule.

Next problem, what is indisputable evidence? It would seem that if it takes more than five minutes to make a decision on a play, whatever the replay is showing is not indisputable. This same problem is occurring in football, just ask David Grimes. Replay officials have now begun to infer and interpret replays rather than look at them in black and white. Indisputable evidence should leave its viewers without any doubt as to what happened. I know it’s unrealistic to get every person to agree, but certainly there has to be some measurable that can be used to determine indisputable evidence. Just like in our court system, where it’s innocent until proven guilty, the call on the field should be deemed correct unless indisputable evidence can prove otherwise.

So after all this bitching and moaning, I have some suggestions for improving the system. First, replay officials for games between non-conference opponents should not be affiliated with either team. I don’t think any officials should be conference-affiliated, but that’s another discussion. This would help to eliminate any bias the officials might have. Once again, I realize it is impossible to completely eliminate bias, but I think this would be better than the current system. Second, the replay should be reviewed by three different officials independently. They should have a given amount of time to come to a conclusion over whether or not the call should be overturned. If they don’t put in a vote before the time limit, then it counts as a vote to keep the play as called. A majority vote overturns the play. The details of overturning the call can then be worked out, such as putting time back on the clock, field position, etc. In theory, this system would help establish a criterion for indisputable evidence.

I’m sure there are plenty of problems that could arise with my proposal, but something has to change. I don’t know if the Irish would have won the championship had that call not been overturned, but it certainly would have made the game more interesting. They played hard and made Notre Dame fans all over the country proud. I just hope the NCAA will create a set of rules that creates a fair environment for our young men to play in.

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