Replay has no place in college football
Upon Further Review
by Tony Basilio
When it comes to my sports, I’m a romantic traditionalist. That’s why I’m drawn to college sports. In pro sports, tradition is purchased and manufactured. With college sports, tradition is birthed and nurtured. That’s why certain aspects of major college sports such as the replay system are beyond frustrating. Replay simply has no place in college football. A segment on my show a few days before the Tennessee-LSU game and the game itself served as confirmation that replay is something that serves to rob the game of its uniqueness and lore. Without these attributes, college football becomes semi-pro ball.
Mention the names Billy Cannon and Charlie Severance, and any Vol or Tiger faithful will tell you about “the stop.” It was Nov. 7, 1959. The undefeated and top-ranked Tigers were in Neyland Stadium against a top-20, scrappy Tennessee team that fought them to the wire. Cannon, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, and the Tigers scored a late touchdown to make it 14-13 and, subsequently, went for two and the win. The Tigers ran a sweep with Cannon who was stood up at the UT goal line behind a ferocious charge from Tennessee’s Charlie Severance. To this day, Cannon swears he scored, while Severance maintains Cannon never got close.
So, 45 years later, a few days away from LSU-Tennessee of ’06, Severance and Cannon appeared on the radio going back and forth with passion as to what happened during “the stop.” Cannon was quizzed by my radio partner Beano as to how it felt to “fail on the two point conversion.” To which Cannon responded, “I don’t call it failure, I call it a missed opportunity.” Severance and Cannon had the floor for about five uninterrupted minutes of good natured ribbing and disagreement. The kind born of respect and passion. It’s the good stuff that major college football brings! Time doesn’t dull arguments. Nothing was settled during this radio segment, but one thing was confirmed. Upon further review, replay in college football sucks. Severance, Cannon and all in attendance (and those who weren’t) can argue forever about this play.
Today’s college football with the replay system has become a game of absolutes. Or has it? Actually, it’s become slower, more robotic and chaotic. Officials’ calls, good and bad, are part of the game. Take Tennessee’s recent game with LSU. Demetrice Morley had a ball obviously nick his forearm while he was back by his own goal line attempting to get out of the way of an errant bounce. At that point in the game, Tennessee was trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter. The refs on the field ruled that Morley never touched the ball. LSU’s players were adamant that the call on the field was an incorrect one.
Replay showed the ball changing the way it was spinning after it passed Morley’s forearm, an obvious sign the ball was touched. The replay official missed the call (they usually do) and served to slow down the game and only add to the confusion of the moment. Tennessee dodged a bullet, and replay didn’t serve its purpose. LSU could’ve had the ball on UT’s three-yard line with a chance to take a commanding lead, but the official still blew the call. What’s the point if the replay officials are afraid to make calls? Then there are the calls they won’t review because the whistle blew. What is that?
In the fall of ’04, at the urging of Penn State’s Joe Paterno, who got the screw job three times at the end of games, the Big 10 decided to implement an experimental replay system. Perhaps it’s appropriate that a league with 11 teams that calls itself the Big 10 would be the catalyst for replay. The Big 10 (with 11 teams) was the guinea pig, and the results were seen as favorable. So much so that ’05 ushered in the first year of replay for all games involving Division 1 Teams.
College football’s system is as convoluted as the way they decide a national champion. You think the BCS is confusing? The college football replay rules make the NASCAR point system look like simple addition. Last season it was a straight replay system wherein an official in the booth monitored every play and alerted field officials when a replay was necessary. Now there’s an extra layer of confusion since coaches now get one challenge per game. Like their NFL brethren, they have a flag and forfeit a timeout if their challenge is denied and a call stands. What makes this absurd is that replay officials are already monitoring every play in each game. In the UT-LSU game, Les Miles tried to call for a challenge, but was told he wouldn’t be charged with his lone one for the game since the play was already being reviewed. So, every play is reviewed after it occurs and coaches can now ask a replay official to look again? What a waste of time.
Replay has no place in college football. It’s a sport without a playoff that doesn’t need absolutes. Let Cannon and Severance argue forevermore. And keep that stupid replay official out of the conversation!
Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.