The AHSAA made a huge announcement yesterday afternoon, saying they will be one of the first states to implement instant replay during the regular season. Only a couple of states have tried this before and it is still considered a “test run” now, but schools will have the option to purchase equipment and provide instant replay for their home games.

There are still a lot of questions to be sorted out as we approach the coming football season. However, here is what we know as of now:

Who is providing the instant replay service and equipment?

A company called DVSport is providing the equipment to be used for this. They also work with the NCAA and major college football and basketball conferences to provide equipment for instant replay and work with the NFL and other sports leagues. They have been involved with NCAA football since 2005 and NCAA basketball since 2010.

How much will this cost?

The AHSAA nor DVSport got into specifics but mentioned the words “minimal costs” and “competitive pricing” when discussing how much the schools would have to pay for this. There is concern that a 7A school can afford this but the smaller classifications can’t. DVSport did say that when a school buys into instant replay, that included in the price will be annual software updates and annual hardware inspections to make sure everything is running smoothly.

DVSport said that instant replay solutions will be scalable in a “cost effective way”, which makes you think that there will be various packages available for amount of cameras, equipment, etc.

Do teams have to participate in this?

No. Participation is completely voluntary. From what it sounds like, this is how it would work:

Team A purchases instant replay, Team B does not. When Team A and Team B meet, it depends on who the home team is. If Team A is home and has instant replay capabilities, then instant replay will be used. If Team B is home and does not have instant replay capabilities, then the game will not feature instant replay.

In 2013, schools were allowed to use technology on the sidelines for the first time, such as viewing past plays on a TV or tablet and having live camera feeds to the sideline. The rule, as we understand it, is that if Team A has a ton of equipment for their home game, but travels to Team B who doesn’t have the space or power required to use all of the technology, then Team A is out of luck. This seems to follow the same technology rules.

However, we still need a little clarification on this.

Will everything be reviewed like in college football?

No. The rules are much more similar to the NFL. Coaches get two challenge flags that they can throw between plays. There will be no “booth reviews” within two minutes either. The only way a play can be reviewed is if a coach challenges. Someone asked a question in the press conference about if a final play would be reviewed if it was a game winning touchdown, and the answer seemed to be no, unless the coach had a challenge left to use.

How can a team challenge a play?

Coaches will have red flags they can throw on the field, similar to the NFL. The flag must be thrown before the next play or the previous play can’t be challenged. When a coach throws the flag, he discusses with the referee what he wants to challenge, then the head referee and one official that was not involved in the call will review the play. There will be one designated representative that will handle the replay equipment on the sideline.

There must be conclusive video evidence (as it is in all leagues) to overturn the call. If not, the call will stand. Because there may not be as many angles of a play or the video may not be as good as TV quality broadcasts, then it’s possible the play can’t be overturned strictly from a lack of seeing the needed evidence. That still counts as a failed challenge. The AHSAA was very specific to say that the instant replay process operates under the assumption that the official’s ruling on the field is correct and the video evidence has to convince the referee, beyond all doubt, that the ruling on the field was incorrect.

If a team challenges a play, and the call is not reversed, then the team will be charged a timeout. If the team has no timeouts, they will get a delay of game penalty (5 yards).

If a team challenges a play and is successful in getting the call overturned, then the coach will get that challenge back.

Protests of replays are not allowed.

What kinds of plays can be challenged?

Any possible on-field error may be challenged other than penalties where a flag was or wasn’t thrown with these exceptions:

– A player throwing a forward pass past the line of scrimmage
– Teams having more than 11 players on the field at the snap of the ball
– A foul that results in a disqualification such as targeting, spearing, blindside block, etc.

Typically challenged plays like catch/no catch, stepping out of bounds, did the player cross the goal line, etc. all will be allowed.

Do coaches and referees want this?

Yes. Vestavia head coach Buddy Anderson, who is the winningest coach in Alabama high school football history, got up and spoke positively about instant replay. He said, “You’re not going to correct everything, but this is going to correct the obvious.”

UMS-Wright head coach Terry Curtis spoke positively about it as well and hoped that all schools would buy into it. “I think the biggest thing now is to get the high schools behind it and get as many of them to give it a try, not just at the 7A level, but all classifications,” said Curtis. UMS-Wright is a 4A school that looks like they will utilize it. Curtis continued, “If it works, it’s because we made it work.”

It was said in the press conference that referees are in favor of this too because at the end of the day, they just want to get the call right.

How many schools are expected to have this equipment for the 2018 season?

The AHSAA hopes that at least 100 programs (about 25-30% of schools) will buy into instant replay in 2018. They tested it in a couple of spring football games last year, and it will undergo intensive testing this spring as well, especially for spring games that are played in locations like Jacksonville State and Troy where instant replay equipment is already in place.

What about the state championship games?

When the games go to Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare Stadium, there will already be SEC grade instant replay equipment in the stadium, so it will be utilized. The process will be much more intensive in those locations and the plan is to show the instant replay process on the big screens in the stadium for fans to see, much in the way they would at an Alabama or Auburn game.

Bottom line, we’ll have to see how it plays out. There was positive and negative reaction to the news on social media from coaches, fans and media alike. It will be tested hard this spring and we’ll get a better feel for what schools will utilize it as we get closer to the fall.