It’s Official: SEC to use Big Ten’s replay plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

The SEC procedure on &uot;instant replay&uot; seems to have taken shape, for the most part. It will actually mirror the Big Ten’s pioneering process of last season with a bit of electronic updating.

As with the Big Ten operation, the SEC will use a single replay official in a separate booth. That individual will be in direct contact with the referee and will be the sole judge of which plays are to be reviewed.

As with the Big Ten, judgement calls, such as pass interference, will not be subject to review. The type of official’s calls which are subject to review are whether a catch is legal, a player fumbled before hitting the ground, a receiver catches a pass in bounds or not, etc. Coaches will have no part in the review process.

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SEC replay officials will likely be drawn from the pool of recently retired active officials. On an average, more good officials retire annually than are needed for the observer program, and most would probably jump at the chance to continue their involvement with the conference and college football.

I have often been asked about the history and definition of the alternate official position and duties on a college football officiating crew. Most have seen photos of early college football games, in and before the early 1920s, when a man standing close to the action, usually in a suit, was identified as the timekeeper who kept the game time on a stop watch.

As stadiums and interest in the game grew, it became necessary that fans, reporters and early broadcasters be able to keep up with time remaining in the games. From that was born the electric field clock, and the need for an operator of that clock.

SEC coaches wanted that operator to be an official, so it was decided an official would be assigned to that duty. That official was also an alternate and had to be prepared to go on the field if one of the officials was injured or otherwise unable to continue.

It was a great way for younger and less experienced officials to gain big-game time. At that time, all SEC schools fielded freshman teams, and officials new to the college ranks gained a lot of their experience officiating those games.

When freshmen became eligible for varsity, it became necessary that new officials taken into the college officiating ranks be ready to strap it on right off the bat. That led to the re-naming of the ECO position to alternate official. With the current speed of the college game, officials are more often injured, so the alternate official is more likely to see action.

The clock often becomes a critical factor in the closing minutes of a close, important game, and the clock operator must keep his concentration at the highest level.

There are still conferences which keep the clock operator in the press box, and over the years I have noticed more timing errors under that situation than with the clock operator on the sideline.

Next week we’ll have an update on the NCAA football rules changes for the 2005 season.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at