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Alabama may soon be the first state to utilize instant replay for high school football

Alabama High School football
Alabama High School football

What would football be like today without instant replay? Many games are won and lost based on the review of a first down or touchdown play. Plus, who doesn’t love booing or cheering a referee’s call as you watch the instant replay and see a close up of a block in the back or a false start?

So far, instant replays have only been used in college and professional games, but Alabama is the first state to test instant replay technology on the high school level, and the results have been encouraging so far.

At the end of May, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) tested instant replay during two spring exhibition games: Westbrook Christian v. Brindlee Mountain and Blount v. Baker. Throughout the two games, the coaches, players, and referees had the chance to test the new technology and apply it to realistic situations. One call was even overturned based on evidence from the replay.

“I’m all for it,” Westbrook Christian coach Shea Monroe said. “I thought it was really cool. Our kids were thrilled about being a part of the first game in the nation to use it. I’m not saying officials don’t do a good job. I don’t think anyone is saying that. But they are just like the rest of us. They are not perfect. They can miss a call and, down the road, this could eliminate one of those guys beating themselves up later because they might have made a ruling on a game-changing play.”

The AHSAA partnered with Nebraska-based tech company Hudl to develop the technology. Hudl’s designs do not require WiFi, which helps cut down on costs. Instead, all the components connect to a hardware box that allows for direct communication. Cameras were set up in the press box and in each end zone to give multiple perspectives, and officials could review the plays on iPads.

Of course, the technology is not perfect yet. Each challenge and review during the spring games took a little more than 2 minutes to confirm, which slowed the game down. During the tests, high school students were in charge of filming with the replay cameras, so some important plays may have been missed. And the cost of the technology is still an issue as well.

But the AHSAA has plenty of time to tweak the system and make it more efficient. The technology must be approved by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations. Until then, replays will only be used to test the procedure.

“We are in the experimental stage right now,” said AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese. “We will continue to analyze it over the next two years. Greg [Brewer, the AHSAA’s director of officials] has worked hard in developing a policy for it along with Jeff Hilliard, our football rules interpreter.

“We are trying to see if it is feasible first. Then we would make a presentation to the National Federation to see if they would allow us to use it in a real game. With technology the way it is today, every coach has a visual aide on the sideline. The only group that doesn’t right now is our football officials. We are trying to find the process that would allow them to have the same opportunity and get the call correct in the end.”

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