The failure to pass such a rule in the NFL has been chalked up to the league not wanting to lose the ability to milk players out of fines, as the vast majority of personal foul penalties ultimately result in fines to the offending player — meaning the officials in this capacity are wage earners for the already filthy rich league.
That kind of mindset works in professional football, but what about in the college ranks — where teams are not accessed fines on the grounds of personal foul calls? We’ve already seen a turnaround from last year’s disasterous “targeting” rule, that caused endless amounts of mayhem and anger. The NCAA quickly revamped it — removing the stipulation that upon review of the penalty, an offending player’s team was not accessed a 15-yard mark off if the call was found to be made in error.
Basically, what happened with the NCAA targeting rule was finally a sign of common sense: review a penalty and if replay shows the call in question did not warrant a flag, wave it off.
Sounds like the right thing to do, but why stop there? Why not review all penalties to try to get the most correctly called game possible?
Of course, there’s scoffing at such a suggestion. Opponents would point to a much longer game, where there would be more instances where play would be stopped in order to check the foul in question. Although I could certainly see additional time extending every game’s length as replay officials look over plays, I don’t think it would add up to more than five to 10 minutes — as a need for replay could be determined while teams are preparing for the next play.
How would the average fan feel about all penalties being reviewed? A poll conducted by NBCsports.com asked 6,500 fans if the NFL should expand replay. The results, while pertaining to the NFL rather than the NCAA, still serve as an effective barometer. Two-thirds of the fans polled voted that every official’s decision should be subject to review. Additionally, 22 percent of those polled voted that personal foul penalties should only be reviewed.
What that clearly says to me is that fans want to see penalties reviewed at some level — to the tone of roughly 85 percent of the polling population. I suspect that you’d find a similar opinion in college football — where too many contests have been decided by referees who were inept, corrupt or too biased to call a game. (See the Florida-Arkansas game from 2009 or Nebraska-Texas A&M in 2010 as fine examples)
I suspect at the NCAA level, penalty review will be eventually become a reality since the fines aren’t part of penalties unless something really outrageous happens. Only then can we as fans of the sport can get close to what we crave when watching a game: a fairly-judged contest.
W. Brian Hale is the sports writer at the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.