CHARLESTON — Get ready for video review challenges at this year's Super Six football championships.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission has adopted a recent National Federation of State High School Associations rules change that allows for video review during playoff contests, but the SSAC is limiting the implementation to Super Six games for this season only.
After the one-year trial run, the SSAC will discuss the results with the state football coaches committee to see if the rule becomes permanent, or perhaps whether to possibly expand it to other playoff games.
Video reviews are limited to scoring plays and turnovers, and the head coach for each team in the state championship games will be given two challenges that can be used at any time. Employing a successful challenge will not earn a coach another challenge later in the game.
"It's uncharted territory," said Wayne Ryan, an assistant executive director with the SSAC who handles football matters. "We're fairly confident in what we can do. It's not like the NFL product, but it is a start and we'll evaluate it from there, once we see how it works with what we've got."
Ryan said the SSAC will rely on MetroNews' television coverage of the three state title games to supply replays for video reviews.
"We'll use any cameras that MetroNews can provide us," Ryan said. "They pretty much have four angles about every play."
Ryan said an additional member of the officiating crew, a replay official, will be stationed on the sideline during the game. When a team challenges a call on the field, the replay official and the referee of the on-field crew will go to a replay tent somewhere on the sideline to look over all possible video replay angles and make a final decision.
"It will be easy to begin with," Ryan said, "and it also means we can implement the rule at no additional cost. All across the country, states are implementing the rule and businesses want to sell them equipment and get them to come on board. We're not in a situation where we can expect the sites hosting postseason games to invest that money, and we can't invest that money at this point.
"Coaches are obviously in favor of getting a call right, and at the same time I don't think any coach feels an overwhelming need to expand it too far. We'll start on a limited basis and expand it from there if we need it."
Ryan said there has been some discussion about the time spent on a video replay challenge, but a decision isn't mandated in a certain amount of minutes.
"We've discussed the expediency of (the review)," he said, "but we didn't have a timeline put on it."
Basketball, of course, already had a well-known case of video review during a state championship game. In the 2011 boys Class AAA finals, George Washington squeezed out a 55-54 victory over Wheeling Park when a last-second 3-pointer by Park's Bubby Goodwin that could have forced overtime was downgraded to a 2-point basket following the officiating crew's review of a video replay monitor at midcourt.
Two of the other recent football rules changes adopted by the SSAC at the same time as the video review deal with horse-collar tackles and the move to a 40-second play clock.
For the first rule, a defender grabbing the nameplate area of the runner's jersey directly below the back collar and pulling the runner to the ground is now an illegal personal contact foul.
The change to a 40-second play clock was done to have a more consistent time period between downs. Previously, a 25-second play clock began when the ball was spotted for a down by the officiating crew and the referee gave the ready-for-play signal. Now, 40 seconds starts running on the play clock when the ball is declared dead by a game official on most plays.
"The game will not be controlled by the tempo of the referee as much," Ryan said. "Some tend to work fast, and some tend to work slow. The tempo will be more regulated, more consistent and the clock just starts."
A 25-second clock will still be used in a few situations - for the conversion following a touchdown, to start a quarter or overtime period, following administration of an inadvertent whistle, after a timeout and following a stoppage of play for an official's timeout or any other reason.