INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA will give college football coaches at least one replay challenge per game next season and require conferences to use a universal review format if Thursday's recommended changes by the rules committee are approved in March.
The announcement was made Thursday at the conclusion of the committee's three-day meeting in Indianapolis.
The NCAA allowed conferences to experiment with instant replay the past two seasons, allowing it to be used to review game officials' calls on the field. Last season, nine of 11 Division I-A conferences used replay on an experimental basis for the first time. Only the Sun Belt and Western Athletic conferences did not.
But the rules varied. The Mountain West Conference, for instance, was the only league that permitted coaches challenges. Of the 35 plays challenged, only five calls were reversed.
"That may not sound like a lot, but if you have five plays that could change the game if not corrected, that is a pretty strong percentage," said Charles Broyles, chairman of the committee and coach at Pittsburg State University. "We thought that providing a coach's challenge would act as an additional safety net and give the coaches more involvement in the process."
Coaches would call timeout to make a challenge. If the call was overturned, the team would keep its timeout and retain its challenge until they lost one. If the call were upheld, the team would be charged a timeout and the coach couldn't challenge again.
"There could be as many challenges as they are right about," said Ty Halpin, associate director of the playing rules oversight panel. "The committee felt they should be rewarded as long as they got the challenge correct."
But the committee did not make the broadest possible change - requiring replay to be used in games. Still, Halpin said he expected all Division I-A conferences to use replay next season, and television monitors will still not be allowed in coaching booths. The rules would apply to all three NCAA divisions.
The playing rules oversight panel must still approve the recommendations.
Another change would allowing the visiting team to determine if replay will be used in nonconference games. Last year, Southern California opted not to have replay when it played at Notre Dame. If approved, that option would not exist next season.
Halpin also said that the committee discussed contingency plans if there are technical difficulties, such as buzzers not going off or malfunctioning video feeds. He said faulty buzzers were one explanation replay was not used to look at some close calls during the Alamo Bowl between Michigan and Nebraska. Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr was forced to use timeouts in that game just to stop play and give officials a chance to review.
Although conferences are trying to devise backup plans, Halpin said the committee would not mandate those changes.
The use of instant replay has generally received positive reviews from coaches.
"I really didn't have any complaints with the way it was last year," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said in a telephone interview.
He did concede the coach's challenge was "probably a good idea."
"If you're willing to risk a timeout for it, it's probably worth it," he said. "Having instant replay in any form is better than not having it. Let's make a good thing the best we can make it."
The committee also made several recommendations to shorten games, which are more frequently going beyond four hours.
If approved, halftime would be shortened from 15 to 20 minutes and the game clock would start when the ball is kicked - not when it is touched by the receiving team. If both teams agree, the halftime break could be extended.
The committee also recommended starting the game clock on a change of possession when the ball is ready for play, something the NCAA said could shorten games by about five minutes.
Kicking tees also would be shortened to one inch in hopes of preventing fewer touchbacks and fewer stoppages.
But Halpin said replay had a minimal effect on the longer games. He cited statistics that showed replay extended games last season by an average of two minutes.
"In the Southeastern Conference, for instance, games were four minutes shorter," he said. "So we didn't see any direct effect on game times changing because of replay."