This past off-season, the Mountain West Conference decided to follow the Big Ten and adopt the use of in-game instant replay. The Big Ten experimented with the use of instant replays last year to make sure the calls on the field were correct.
Even though the MWC followed in the footsteps of the Big Ten, the conference added another element: a coach's challenge. Unlike the Big Ten, where the challenge must come from an official, MWC head coaches have a red flag that can be thrown to indicate a challenge. The challenge then goes to the replay booth and is reviewed by officials in the box. The MWC is the only conference in the nation to use the coaches' challenge.
The MWC does sway from the NFL challenge because it still allows a coaches' challenge in the final two minutes. In the NFL and Big Ten, only officials can make a call during the last two minutes.
"I think if they take time to look and make sure the call is right, then it's good for the game," said CSU Head Coach Sonny Lubick.
According to the MWC media guide, the system "is to utilize available technology to identify and correct errors, thus positively impacting the officiating program and enhancing the overall MWC football operation."
Much like the NFL rules of instant replay, there must be 'indisputable' video evidence to overturn a call on the field. However, unlike NFL rules where the field judge looks at the replay on the field, officials in the box will make the call if ruling on the field should be overturned or not.
Since being implemented in 1986, the NFL's use of instant replay has been debated. In 1991, owners voted to get rid of instant replay, which was bringing games to a grinding halt with lengthy reviews.
Replay was revived in the NFL after the 1998 season, this time placing the responsibility on coaches to stop play for reviews. The coaches' challenge has been in place since, but you won't see it anywhere in college football outside the MWC.
Already the new rule has sparked controversy during last week's nail-biting finish between the BYU Cougars and TCU Horned Frogs.
In the final play of overtime TCU tailback Cory Rodgers appeared to cross the goal line before fumbling the football on a 3-yard touchdown run. Video evidence from replays weren't enough to reverse the decision and TCU won 51-50. Later photographs showed Rodgers probably did fumble the ball before scoring.
"On my headset, our coaches told us it was a fumble," BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters after the game. "But I trust the replay system. They reviewed it and made the call."
The replay system allows for one challenge for each coach per half. If the play is overturned, the coach gets a second challenge for that half – if not, a timeout is taken away. Coaches must have a timeout to challenge and cannot have more than two challenges per half.
"Everyone seems to be concerned about it taking away the tempo from the game, but I think if they get the call right on the field, then people wont mind it that much," said senior wide-out David Anderson.
Although there is no time limit on how long a play can be reviewed, the MWC said they would like to keep it to 45 seconds or less to keep play going.
Last Saturday when the Rams took on the Nevada Wolfpack, a challenge was called from the booth late in the game on a kick-off return. The play was ruled a fumble on the field and was upheld after about a two minute review.
Twenty-eight bowl games will use the replay system as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Pac-10, Southeastern Conference and independent, Notre Dame.