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College Football Hasn't Embraced Tech on the Sidelines

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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

Two years ago, the NCAA passed a proposal that encouraged college football to embrace technology by putting tablet computers on sidelines and cameras in helmets.

Two years later, college football is still behind the times when it comes to using technology to coach players during games.

"If you look now at high school football, a lot of high schools around the country, a lot of states around the country, allow the use of iPads," said South Dakota coach Bob Nielson, chairman of the football rules committee. "From a college standpoint, in terms of comparing what the NFL is doing and even what some of the high schools are doing, we're just not doing anything with regard to technology on the sideline or in the press box."

Progress stalled for two reasons:

Having heard about the glitches and shortcomings of the technology from their NFL brethren, some coaches were skeptical. Figuring out how to pay for it and make sure it can work in an equitable way is no small task for administrators.

So for now everything is on hold.

"The (rules) committee completely backtracked," NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said. "People are still saying 'what are we going to do?' But nobody's really pushing to do anything."

Going forward, the NCAA football competition committee will take the lead on technology.

At minimum, Nielson said he would like coaches stationed in press boxes and on sidelines to have access to computer-generated video and images of the game.

Seems simple, but just getting another secure and reliable Wi-Fi signal into a stadium can be problematic at some schools.

The NFL has a sponsorship deal with Microsoft to provide tablets for its 32 teams. Bowlsby said it is unlikely for a sponsor to provide a similar deal for 130 FBS teams.

Nielson said ultimately it could fall on conferences to set guidelines about what is permissible and to monitor the equipment.

"What works best for your grouping of schools in order to not provide for a competitive advantage for one school or another? And obviously there's got to be a mechanism for that to be regulated," Nielson said. "We don't want our game officials having to be the ones that are checking the press boxes to make sure the equipment they have is the right equipment."

Technology will be on the agenda when the 13-member competition committee, headed by Arizona State athletic director and former NFL executive Ray Anderson, meets at the beginning of March at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. The rules committee meets at the same time.

"I fully expect that we'll adopt the use of technology at some point in time," Bowlsby said, "but we just want to make sure we're going to get it right and part of getting it right in the college environment is making it so that it's relatively accessible to everybody who might need to use it."

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February 7, 2017
 
 
 

 

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