Traditionally, the path of an NCAA replay official has been much of the same – someone who’s spent years on the field officiating transitions into the replay booth during the final years of their career.
Working with the NCAA and in conjunction with International Bowl X, College Football Officiating (CFO) – the governing body of college football officiating focused mainly at the Division l level – is looking to change that.
This year’s Southwest CFO “Kickoff Clinic” brings 96 Division ll and Division lll college officials to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to help start an NCAA initiative to get younger, more tech-savvy officials into the replay booth.
“We want to introduce them to replay earlier in their career so we can transition them to replay before they have worked 25-30 years on the field because we’re looking at people to make replay a career, not just finish their career in the booth,” Dean Blandino, CFO director of instant replay said. “This would be a career path that they might bypass the field all together and start in the replay booth and work from there.”
During the two-day event, Blandino will assist attendees – many of which have never been in a replay booth – through classroom sessions and using the replay system at AT&T Stadium Friday to walk through the process of instant replay and discuss different situations.
The idea for the replay-focused clinic, the first of its kind, was brought up through conversations at the Division ll and Division lll College Coordinators meeting last year. Coordinators understand the path of college officials moving to the Division l level is challenging for on-field referees, but they saw an opportunity through the replay booth.
Southwest CFO Commissioner Tim Crowley, who has more than 35 years of experience officiating Texas college and high school football, ran with the idea, seeing International Bowl X as the perfect opportunity to work with live-game action, rather than scrimmages or spring football games that have been used for officiating clinics in the past.
“We’re not going to stop the games and do replay, that’s not what this is about. Dean is going to show them what you do during a game. They’ll be able to ask questions and they’ll be able to look at the video,” Crowley said. “We’re going to try and create an environment where we got kind of the replay model happening.”
Each of the 12, eight-person crews in attendance will work on-field to officiate a quarter of either the U-16, U-17 or U-18 National Team games on Jan. 18 and spend an entire game working just outside the control booth at AT&T Stadium. There, they’ll analyze game footage with Blandino, ask questions about the calls made down on the field and work with replay equipment – one of the hardest tasks officials face when transitioning from the field to the replay booth.
Last May, after spending more than 20 years in the NFL, Blandino was named CFO director of instant replay, which focuses on the off-season development and education of college football officials. Both Blandino and Crowley hope this event will gain enough traction to implement similar clinics around the country and encourage participants to look at replay officiating as a career path.
“I think the goal is really to spark an interest, and even if it’s just a handful of these officials, if four or five of them could say, ‘You know what? Maybe I’m not going to get to Division l on the field and replay is my path,’” Blandino said. “If we can get a couple of those officials and spark that interest, that’s the goal here.”