Even though I’ve been watching Eastern Illinois football games for the last three years, I guess I haven’t grasped the rules of the game just yet. As I sat in the press box on Saturday with a friend and covered the first home game of the season, I saw Eastern running back Devin Church fumble the football in overtime. Immediately my head turned to the TV in the room, which showed the game. The cameras on the field didn’t clarify if Church’s knee was down first.
All of a sudden the Illinois State offense ran onto the field for its possession. I was shocked. Why couldn’t they review the play? Then the truth came to light soon after: instant replay is not available in Ohio Valley Conference football. As a matter of fact, it’s not used in any other Football Championship Subdivision conference except for the Southland Conference, unless the game is a playoff or televised contest. Instant replay was established in college football’s Football Bowl Subdivision in 2006, and has been a topic of debate since.
But why should the replay be criticized? The officials are the ones in charge of checking to see if the call on the field was correct. Even if they get it wrong that won’t change how fans will feel about the officiating, especially after every flag that’s thrown against their team.
“It’s not perfect,” said Rogers Redding, national coordinator for college football officials. “You’ve got humans overseeing the replay system just like you’ve got human officials on the field. It’s never going to be perfect.”
It may be imperfect, but look at what it has done for college football. When a wide receiver leaps for a pass near the sideline and lands out of bounds. It’s easy to rule the pass incomplete. But with the help of instant replay we can see if the receiver was able to get a foot in-bounds after he caught it. If in a similar situation the receiver catches the ball, but looks like he trapped it instead, instant replay can identify if the ball hit the turf before or after it got to the receiver.
But it’s only in the FBS where this system is used for every game. Now why would the National Collegiate Athletic Association only use this for bigger games in college football? It’s simple the bigger schools make more money and have a bigger fan base. That’s why FCS schools travel to FBS schools every year, to play for a big paycheck that they desperately need for their athletic programs.
In 2012 Idaho State, which had gone nine years without a winning season, traveled to Nebraska, so that the Bengals could receive $700,000 for the athletic department. The department’s budget was only $9 million, which depended on that $700,000 to fund all teams. That is the reason why the FCS doesn’t have instant replay, the money the NCAA makes because of programs like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas is greater than what FCS universities and below have to offer. During the regular season there are two many games occurring to give out that equipment for all match ups. It’s so much easier to do that during the postseason when fewer teams are playing, and the games are more important.
Like Eastern other schools its size are desperately holding whatever they own to survive in a world that favors the bigger, more powerful entities.