The 2018 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly has begun. Over the course of this and every session before, we will see a mixture of the sublime, the ridiculous, the well-meaning and profane, the uninformed, politically motivated, and the down right vindictive.
State Rep. Patty James Bentley’s House Bill 667 has heavy doses of well-meaning and uninformed, plus a smidgen of vindictiveness. Her bill, which Rep. Robert Dickey and three other lawmakers have affixed their names in support, would require any school that receives state funds that happen to have football teams good enough to end up in a state playoff or championship game to beg off if the “athletic association does not provide for instant replays to review rulings on the field.”
This, of course, is in response to the state 3A football championship game where Peach County was the victim of a controversial call that negated a late-game touchdown that could have given it a win over Calhoun.
Rep. Bentley and Rep. Dickey are responding to their constituents; we understand that. We know they are well-meaning. But Bentley’s statement to Telegraph reporter Maggie Lee reveals she may not be up to speed on what she is asking the Georgia High School Association, the administrative body that runs most high school sports in the state, to do.
“Technology is so advanced now, there’s no reason they should not have this already in place,” she said. “It should not be that expensive, so they shouldn’t have to pass a huge financial burden onto schools that are members of the association.”
Let’s examine those statements for a minute. It’s true technology has certainly advanced, and it is also true that we have become accustomed to watching the technologically difficult seem simple. It should be noted that the rules for NFL game replays have been in development and continue to be refined since 1986. And while the NFL controls the replay process, the GHSA doesn’t own a single piece of broadcast equipment. No cameras, no switchers or any of the other basic pieces of equipment needed for instant replay.
The TV networks invest millions of dollars to broadcast college and professional games, but they get a return on investment through selling advertising over an entire season. They also invest millions of dollars in broadcasting technology and the technicians that keep it all running.
The broadcast partner for the GHSA playoffs and championships is Georgia Public Broadcasting that is limited in what it can recoup in ad dollars. Plus, GPB doesn’t have the infrastructure to allow for super slo-mo and the various high-definition camera angles necessary for instant replay. While it may look very simple, it is very, very complicated — and expensive.
Even if you have all of the equipment, it might work well enough as long as you were in the confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but if, as happened this past year, when weather caused four game cancellations, the games were postponed? Instead of being held inside at a set location, they were moved to home stadiums scattered across the state? If this legislation were approved, the cost of providing instant replay in four locations, all with differing infrastructure, some in areas where wireless bandwidth couldn’t be counted on would be astronomical. It wouldn’t make economic sense.
And there are other considerations. The proposal gives no time frame for the GHSA to come up with rules governing instant replay even if it were allowed by the National Federation of State High Schools Associations, which it is not. Nor does the legislation give time for training of officials, staff and coaches. Implementation is another bugaboo. Any football fan will attest that instant replay is not so instant. Its use can slow games down.
It is unfortunate that Peach County was on the losing end of this state championship. There are missed and incorrect calls in every football game. The call wiping away Peach County’s apparent touchdown was particularly egregious, but there is no legislative cure that won’t create more issues than it solves.
Rep. Bentley can extricate herself from this matter by asking for a cost analysis from the GHSA and from GPB, so she can then ask the General Assembly to fund the effort. The matter will quickly die, but she can tell the home folks that she tried.