Big Ten should review how it's splitting ranks

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 12:24 a.m.

Upon further review ...

There are the words that make football fans cringe with anticipation. Will he or won't he see things my way? For professional football, it has been a part of the game for several years. The red flag has become as an important piece of equipment in the NFL as the syringe.

Now, instant replay is moving in on the college game. If you are a Florida fan and witnessed the game against Florida State this past season, you probably feel like it's too late. But it's coming, at least to the Big Ten.

The league will present to the Management Council a proposal for limited and modified instant replay only for its conference games.

If it passes, this means that the Big Ten refs who have been much-criticized will follow the leads of their NFL counterparts . . . and quit making calls. How many times do you see NFL officials stand around hoping someone else will make the call or just wait for the review?

The question now is whether other conferences will follow suit.

"We've brought it to our coaches," said SEC supervisor of officials Bobby Gaston. "They haven't been interested. There are concerns about the number of cameras involved. And they don't want to lengthen the game."

As long as the Big Ten plans to use replay, it might as well call the monitor "The Paterno" because it has been his complaining that has been a major factor in bringing this change about.

Now I'm not against change as a rule and I'm all in favor of getting things right, but one of the best parts about the college game is that once a play is over, it's over. Calls even out (most of the time) and even when they don't, hey, you have to live with it.

It's like Ron Zook told his team after the FSU game, "Football is a man's game. You have to take it like men."

But it's not that instant replay may slowly be creeping into college football that irks me. It's that only one BCS conference is considering it.

Which is just one more way that the way we decide the national champion is unfair.

Different conferences, different rules. How is that right?

The thing about the NFL is that everyone plays by the same set of rules, the best teams advance to a playoff and the team with the Lombardi Trophy is the indisputable champion.

In college football, we have some conferences that require a playoff game at the end of the season, some that don't. We have officials that interpret rules differently from conference to conference.

For example, Gaston will be making a presentation to the NCAA Rules Committee next month and one of the things he will discuss is the celebration rule.

"I've heard commentators on TV say that a player wouldn't get away with that in the SEC," he said. "I'm proud of that, but why can't we get it called the same all over the country?

"The other night, I wrote down 14 plays (not in SEC games) that should have been flagged. Players spinning balls, saluting, bowing. College football is not a carnival. Do they want it called or not?"

While I think the SEC is overly restrictive, it would be nice if everyone in college football did play by the same rules.

What's next, the ACC deciding that the field should be 110 yards long? The Big 12 doing away with the two-point conversion? The Big East awarding a point for touchbacks? The Pac-10 outlawing defense? Wait, that has already happened with the exception of Southern Cal.

The point is that the game is too great to have it so splintered. It doesn't seem illogical that every college football team should be governed by the same criteria.

Perhaps what the college game needs is a commissioner. One man or woman to bring it all together and say, "Hey, if we're going to leave the championship game up to polls and computers, at least let's have everyone playing the same way."

Now that's a novel idea.

If every conference wants replay, OK. If every league agrees on a championship game, great.

Instead, we have a flawed system.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at or by calling 374-5053. You can hear Pat weekdays from 4-5 p.m. on WGGG 1230-AM in Gainesville and WMOP 900-AM in Ocala.

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