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“If It Ain’t Broke…

Don’t fix it.” Now, most of us know that saying. We’ve heard someone say it or maybe even read it somewhere countless times. But I’m not quite sure if the decision makers of the college football understand that saying, or know how it is supposed to end.

I’m not suggesting college football is broken, although one could argue it’s needed to be fixed.  However, I think there’s a fine line that one treads when making changes to a game that didn’t really need to be changed, rather those decision makers wanted to make changes. I’m a fan of protecting athletes, so putting a careful eye on protecting an unprotected wide receiver going over the middle, is a good thing. The targeting rule for the most part is a good thing. The real issue is with it is I think it may actually cause more damage than good. Think with me on this, a player now has to think about what he’s going to do on the field. Any athlete will tell you thinking is something you do pre-play and post-play, not in between. When an athlete has to think about where he’s going to tackle, that adds the possibility of greater risk – if I’m unable to hit high, naturally I have to hit low. Referees should not be so quick to call that penalty, and kicking a player out of the game for a questionable call is a bit questionable in itself.

Take the Michigan St/Michigan game for example this past Saturday. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook was attempting to slide right as Michigan’s senior captain Joe Bolden was going in for the tackle. It is impossible. I repeat impossible for a defensive player going in for a tackle to adjust mid-motion of where he’s going to tackle. Should the referees penalize a player for that, sure go ahead, but eject him? That’s just irresponsible. Oh and by the way this is coming from a Notre Dame fan, so it’s very rare we side with them. In fact, I may have just gotten my Notre Dame fan hood card revoked. Oh yes that’s a real thing. Ok, not really.

The other part of the game that I’ve noticed is dragging this game down is the penalties called and decisions made by the referees.  I don’t mean just the “bad calls” you think were called against your favorite team either. It’s one thing to overlook a holding penalty, it happens all the time just ask any offensive or defensive lineman, or rule it a catch when it hit the ground, or call it a pick play when it really wasn’t. Yes I’m talking to you refs that called that bogus call against Notre Dame last year at Florida State. So the solution was made to bring in instant replay.

Great. Finally a perfect way to ‘fix’ the game. But it’s not. If you’re an avid college football fan, go ahead and take a minute and think of all the bad calls made by referees this season. Go ahead I’ll wait…. You should have at least come up with a handful.

Listen. I get it refs are going to make mistakes, and if they do instant replay is there to bail them out. That, my friends, is the problem. I think too often refs make calls b/c they know they have instant replay to fall back on, an out if you will. But how many times have we seen a play called on the field that goes to review and takes FOREVER to confirm or overturn a call. Even now, the booth sees exactly the replays that we see at home. We can clearly see it was the wrong call, the announcers can clearly see that, but somehow the booth doesn’t see that and the call stands or is overturned, depending side of the team cheering aisle you’re on.

I mean what’s the point of instant replay if the right call isn’t made?

Let’s make this simple. If a ball is thrown 3-5 yards beyond the end zone defensive pass interference should not be called. That rule by definition means “to prevent” from catching. Well if that ball isn’t catchable, unless that wide receiver is Superman, he’s not catching it.

Let’s hold these referees accountable for bad calls made. I mean really hold them accountable. Referees are coddled like babies and protected so that no one can even criticize a bad call. Referees do a job, players do their job, just as you and I do our job. They too should be judged on the job they’ve done. How about fining a referee for a bad call? Taking some money from their paychecks. That might incentivize them to be smarter with the whistle and not so quick to throw the yellow hanky. Now they may do that internally, but they tell us of coaches and athletes’ fines, why not referees?

At the end of the day, the game of college football is progressing and more changes I’m sure we’ll come down the road. I’m asking those who make these decisions to be smart about the ones they make next.

The game is already great, and human error is part of that game. But now if we have human error with a sprinkle of  instant replay error, what kind of game will it become?

Change doesn’t equal better.

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