ACC keeps high-tech eye on officials' performance Print
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Thursday, 04 October 2007 11:39
NCAAF Headline News

 GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -Jerry McGee has officiated enough college football games to know that he's probably missed a few calls. No matter how much he prepares to get it right on plays decided by inches and over in a split second, he knows it could happen again.
But should he miss a call, McGee won't have to wait long before he hears about it from the Atlantic Coast Conference and its high-tech officiating review team.
``We're like players and coaches,'' said McGee, whose day job is serving as president of Wingate University. ``We want to be perfect on every single play and every single call. That has to be our goal and any tool that helps us get better is welcome.''
The league's 12 teams are scattered across a 1,500-mile footprint, but an ACC Big Brother is watching almost every call - from false-start flags to no-calls on apparent holding penalties to rulings on whether acrobatic catches in the back of the end zone are touchdowns.
The work takes place in a room that's tucked away on the second floor of the ACC headquarters and filled with high-definition televisions, DVRs and computers. The league records televised games and charts penalties and controversial plays, then forwards them for evaluation as part of a midweek compilation that is eventually sent to officials and coaches.
The idea is simple: The league wants to correct mistakes and reinforce positives as it works to standardize calls and increase accountability.
``What we now have is really a tool to be utilized like a coach utilizes video,'' commissioner John Swofford said. ``When you can see something immediately, whether it something you've done or someone else has done, you can learn from it.
``The desired result is we continue to get better and better in terms of officiating. It's what our players and coaches want, what our fans want and what we want.''
The program has its fans among the league's 12 coaches. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said the ACC should do ``anything we can do to make our officials the best in the country.'' Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the work fosters trust between coaches and officials.
``I think we have a caring group, a group of guys that want to get it right,'' Grobe said. ``They're just like coaches: they make mistakes and they're trying to learn from mistakes each week. It's good for a football coach to be able to get the same information they're getting from week to week and see their points of emphasis and how they're getting better. I think it makes us more comfortable on Saturday when we know that they're really working at it.''
In past years, the ACC looked at footage it had on videotape or whatever league coaches submitted for review or clarification. But the league, as it renovated its offices, invested in technology aimed at providing faster feedback after each week's games.
Doug Rhoads, who became the league's coordinator of football officiating in January, scouted similar setups in the NFL and the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences before the ACC designed its command center. It includes $36,000 worth of flat-panel TVs and other video gear - even a telestrator used to critique the 30 or so plays reviewed each week and sent to both coaches and officiating crew chiefs.
``With all of these games being televised, let's capture all of it and build a library of how we want it done,'' said Rhoads, a former FBI agent who spent about 30 years as a game official. ``It's a teaching mechanism that's outstanding. It's visual feedback of how we want it to work.''
McGee, who has officiated more than 350 games in his career, is eager to review each week's release.
``The minute we get it, I shut down what I'm doing and watch it,'' he said.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, college interns sat at three workstations to monitor the game broadcasts and log key plays and penalties. Plays flagged by the interns or the official are retained in a computer that compiles them throughout the day and added to footage submitted by coaches each week. Rhoads eventually culls the footage into the week's key points.
``It's not a matter of coming down there on Saturday afternoon and having fun watching football games,'' Rhoads said. ``When we see a guy come in and put his foot to mark the spot and he's in the wrong spot, maybe nobody knows. But we know.''
 

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