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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Football Is Finally Getting With the Times, Technologically Speaking

  • College football leaders are expected to recommend helmet communications and video review tablets.
  • Meanwhile the NFL is considering technology to supplement the chains.
Aug 15, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; Chain crew members walk on the field prior to the game between the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Rules Committee is expected Friday to vote on and pass a recommendation for transformative technological changes to college football, Yahoo! Sports reports. If those tweaks are implemented, the collegiate game would catch up to the NFL in key ways: deploying player-to-coach helmet communications and implementing tablets for video review on the sideline and at halftime. (The vote will also cover the idea of adding a two-minute warning at the end of each half.)

Teams in more than a dozen college football bowl games this season used either the helmet communication technology or the tablets. In a year rocked by a sign-stealing scandal tied to the eventual national champion, Michigan, quarterbacks and defensive players who used the helmet technology in bowls didn’t need to look at the sideline for their calls or worry about the other team picking up on their systems. That’s a luxury NFL quarterbacks have enjoyed since 1994 and certain defensive players have used since 2008.

“[Our] quarterback loved it,” the head equipment manager at Texas Tech, Cayman Ancell, whose team played with the communication system in a bowl game, told Yahoo! “The defensive guys wished everybody on defense could have had [the capabilities in their helmets].”

In the pros, the NFL announced Thursday that it has tested an electronic system to measure first downs, which could supplement the low-tech, manually operated chains as early as next season (though 2025 would be more likely, per NFL EVP of football operations Troy Vincent). The league said it used the camera technology in games including the Super Bowl and will talk to teams and owners about whether they want to introduce the system.

The NFL has long understood that the chains aren’t “perfectly accurate,” according to former VP for officiating Mike Pereira. But, whether for the drama of the moment when the chains decide a crucial play or the tradition of chain crews, the league has held on to the self-admittedly imperfect system.

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