Replay review has inherent issues across football, from college to the NFL. Slow motion can trick your eyes, no one seems to know what constitutes a catch or targeting-no matter how many times they see it, and it takes too long to get an answer that everyone at home saw after the first replay.
In the American Athletic Conference the problem is exaggerated to hyperbolic proportions. The most recent disaster came at the end of the Tulsa-ECU game.
Driving towards the eventual game winning touchdown, Tulsa fumbled the football. It was a pretty obvious fumble to everyone, and ECU recovered clearly. Nothing to see here. Except, the AAC officials decided there was something and after an extended replay review decided that Tulsa running back T.K. Wilkerson fumbled, but regained possession of the ball midair, before being tackled. The ball that came out as he crashed down was due to the ground according to the AAC referees.
This was ruled a fumble for Tulsa live and overturned on review to say he regained possession and was down...Tulsa ended up scoring the game winning TD as a result, after benefiting from another close call on 4th down pic.twitter.com/u4f58GmagG— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) October 31, 2020
That was simply incorrect. Wilkerson fumbled, never came close to regaining possession and they took away an ECU recovery.
Just a few moments later the referees were reviewing another play. This time a completed pass to Josh Johnson. Well, it might have been completed. There was an angle that seemed to show the tip of the ball being trapped by the ground. Again, they took a long review, only to decide that the call would be confirmed.
The potential game winning drive for Tulsa might be the worst officiated sequence I’ve seen in a college football game in a long time highlighted by this “complete” pass pic.twitter.com/eAaVfVdRG8— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) October 31, 2020
How can anyone look at that play and say it was confirmed? And, if it is confirmable, why would it take so long? What are you looking at that’s so important you’re making games go longer and longer?
Whatever the thought process on these replays, they directly led to ECU losing the game. Yes, you can argue that ECU shouldn’t have let Tulsa come back, and that they had other chances, but the referees stole what looked to be the deciding play of the game. Referees are supposed to keep a game as even as possible, but this made the game blatantly unequal.
The worst part of it all? Nothing was surprising about AAC referees blowing a key call. Nothing was surprising about the mistake. They make blatantly bad calls after reviewing them every single week.
Consistency is nonexistent. For instance, targeting is called different game to game. One game you’ll see a player get ejected for a violent looking shoulder to shoulder hit, the next they don’t. One game a player won’t get ejected for a hit to the head, the next they will.
You remember last season, when they ruled Joey Magnifico made a catch late in Memphis’ game at Temple. Well, they decided to review that catch, and decided the pass was incomplete. They found evidence that wasn’t there, to overturn a call they got right on the field, and give Memphis its only regular season loss of 2019.
The most maddening part isn’t even how often they get the call wrong. It’s how long it takes to get that call.
This past offseason it was proposed to limit replay reviews to two minutes. The logic is two-fold. First, replays are taking up tons of time and extending games. Between a faster pace of play, more passing, and more commercials the length of the typical game is closer to four hours than three. Eventually, fans won’t be interested in watching full games unless the length of games is improved. Secondly, if you are looking at a replay for more than two minutes, you don’t have indisputable video evidence to overturn a play.
Well, AAC referees almost never stay under two minutes and are often closer to five minutes. These long replay reviews might be worth it if they got the call right, but as we established they are consistently wrong on these replays. Instead, the flow of the game is stopped, momentum is killed, and fans get bored and tune out.
At the end of the day, the AAC’s Power 6 movement is a good one. Conference realignment is not guaranteed, and even if it does come only a couple of programs will be elevated. So, developing a better perception of the conference as a whole is how you start getting invited to things like the College Football Playoff. However, if you can’t get something as simple as a replay review right, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?