Instant replay is coming to high school football in Alabama in 2018 after the Alabama High School Athletic Association received permission to implement a replay system.
The AHSAA was granted permission by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) on April 12 and the AHSAA Central Board voted to implement the system in 2018.
The AHSAA was granted permission to use the system for up to three years, but will need to ask for authorization to continue using the system after those three years.
The AHSAA is partnering with Pittsburgh, Pa., based software company DVSport, Inc., to provide the instant replay system.
Almost all major NCAA football conferences, including the Southeastern Conference, uses DVSport’s replay system. DVSport also provides instant replay for the College Football Playoffs and the playoffs for the FCS, D-II, and D-III divisions of NCAA football, along with the NAIA Championship.
“We are grateful to the NFHS for approving our request,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said in a statement. “This gives our officials the opportunity to use the same technology coaches have been equipped with on their sidelines to get the call right.”
The replay system will be optional for any team that wants to use it and there will be a fee to use the software, but Savarese stated that the software would be affordable for all schools.
Most high school football programs use various cameras to record games currently and DVSport’s system would plug straight into those cameras. The officials would then use an iPad or other tablet on the sideline, in a kiosk provided by DVSport, to review plays in question.
DVSport has also stated that it will sell more cameras, including pylon cameras, to schools that would like to purchase them.
The price point is going to be a sticking point for many schools that simply can’t afford it but Savarese stated that the cost for the system would be less than purchasing a new coaching headset. Both the AHSAA and DVSport have refused to say publicly exactly how much it will be, however.
Daleville head coach Rob Armstrong said that whether or not the Daleville Warhawks use the system would be solely based on cost.
Enterprise coach David Faulkner is optimistic about the possibilities replay can bring to the high school game.
“I think it’s something that’s probably a good idea to try out and see how it performs and how well we can do that in high school football,” Faulkner said. “I’m all for trying it and seeing if it improves the game and gives us some clarification on calls or if it may go the other way and not do anything other than slow the games down.
“I’m optimistic about the effect it can have but it’s still a wait and see until we can implement it and see it in action.”
New Brockton coach Justin Jones said that his team has been preparing for this move for some time.
“For us, we already have all the cameras and everything, we’ve known it was coming for two years,” Jones said. “It’s just a matter of getting the software and can they make it affordable for everybody. It’s financially feasible for us but it’s not going to be for everybody.”
As the policy is laid out, each school will decide if it wants to purchase the software or equipment to use the system. If a team travels to a school that doesn’t use the system, the visiting team will still be able to use its equipment and software to provide replay for that game.
Savarese said that the AHSAA expects around 25 percent of the state’s 386 schools to implement the system in 2018.
One game that will use the system regardless will be the state championship for each classification. The AHSAA will use the systems in either Bryant-Denny Stadium or Jordan-Hare Stadium, where championships are held, regardless of whether either team in a game uses DVSports during the regular season.
For the schools that do decide to use the system, each team will get two challenges per game, but those two challenges can end up being unlimited.
If a coach challenges a play and wins the challenge, then the coach gets to keep that challenge. If the coach’s challenge fails then the team loses that challenge and after two challenges fail, the team does not get another one.
Also, if a team fails on a challenge then the team loses a timeout, but if the team does not have any timeouts when it issues a challenge then that team will be assessed a delay of game penalty if the challenge fails.
To challenge a play, a coach will throw a red flag before the start of the next play.
Another issue that some will likely have is the amount of time that replays take and whether it will cause long delays in games.
The AHSAA stated that it expects that instant replay will add no more than 30 minutes to a game, however.
Jones said that he doesn’t like the idea of lengthening a game but it is worth it to make sure officials get things right.
“I’m never for lengthening the game but I’m also for getting it right,” Jones said. “I think for the official’s side of things, that’s what this is about. Making sure we get things right.”
Every play is reviewable except for penalties, with some exceptions. Officials can review whether a player threw a forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether a flag was thrown or not, and can review whether a team had more than 11 players on the field during a play. Officials can also review targeting, spearing or fighting penalties that result in a disqualification for one or more players.
If a play that resulted in the disqualification of a player is overturned, that player will be allowed to remain in the game.
Officials can also review whether or not the game clock or play clock ran out on a play or quarter.
All replay decisions are final and cannot be protested.
What the officials see during a replay will be based on the equipment the schools use. If a school only has one camera then the official will only get one camera angle. If the school has multiple camera angles, the official will be able to see the play from all angles.
A play can only be overturned, according to the AHSAA, if there is undisputable video evidence that it should be overturned. So, if a team only has one camera angle and that angle doesn’t give the official a good enough look at the play to see for certain, then the play can’t be overturned.
Faulkner said that Enterprise currently uses between three and five cameras during games and the Wildcats have already been broadcasting all games live on the Internet, but Enterprise would still look into buying more equipment if it’s needed.
“I don’t know the financial ramifications of what the costs are yet but if it’s something that we feel like we can or need to do, as far as getting more equipment, then we’ll try to determine what equipment we need to have to make sure things run properly,” Faulkner emphasized.
More details should be forthcoming as schools begin to talk with DVSport and the AHSAA is expected to discuss the replay system more during its annual summer conference with coaches.