The NCAA is tapping the brakes on bringing more technology to college football Saturdays.
Coaches in the Southeastern Conference are ready to stomp the gas.
“It’s clear we are on a march to more technology in our stadiums,” Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of football officials, said two weeks ago when the league’s coaches and administrators met in Florida. “It’s a good healthy discussion to have because technology is all around us.”
Not in college football it’s not. While high school teams in some states are watching coaching video on the sidelines during games and NFL teams have used pictures of game action as teaching tools during the game for years, college coaches still are drawing up everything on blackboards and sending in signals with flashcards.
“When I’m recruiting, I see high school teams in the state of Georgia who are replaying the previous series with their offensive line, with their backs, with their quarterback on the sideline,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “Certainly, that’s something that would be beneficial for us.”
The NCAA will be taking some technology baby steps in 2017, allowing video of games to be used in the locker room and in the coaches press box during games. Currently, college coaches can’t use any video or still photographs during games in any location. The football rules committee originally sought to make the change this season but decided to postpone its implementation until all the details were decided.
(For instance, Will the video that’s available be the television video or more inclusive full-field video shot by teams each game? Or, would the video be available to a quarterback who wanted to run to the locker room while his defense was on the field during the first or second half?)
In the meantime, coaches in the SEC spent time at their spring meetings trying to move the ball even further down the field technology wise.
“We are trying to get out ahead of that,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
The football coaches all were in favor of adding video in the locker room but are still considering the idea video or still photos on the sideline, Stoops said. Muschamp, who coached the Miami Dolphins as an assistant under Nick Saban, would like to see at least non-moving pictures allowed on the sideline.
“It was a huge part of what we did in the NFL,” Muschamp said. “To be able see a picture of the formation and to be able to see a receiver split or to be able to see the split of an offensive tackle, all of those things are really critical. It’s a much easier learning curve for a player as opposed to drawing it on a blackboard.”
The coaches also appeared to be unanimous in their support of adding radio communication between the sideline and the quarterback and one person on defense.
“I’d love to be able to talk to the linebacker instead of holding up cards because by the time you get to the second half, they know all your signals,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema sees the legalization of video as a small step out of the coaching stone ages.
“What everybody thinks was a subtle thing, I think is going to be one of the greatest game-changers in college football history,” Bielema said. "Right now, we don't use any electronic devices. The crazy part of this is that, I sat on the rules committee five years ago and listened to the national high school director talk about their use of computers, and we’re still using Etch-a-Sketch.”