NCAA gets high-def replay system for March Madness
The NCAA is going all in on high-def video reviews during March Madness.
The men's and women's basketball tournaments begin this week. The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It governs college sports. March Madness is a nickname for the national tournament in basketball.
For the first time, the tournament will use a replay system that captures live high-definition video from multiple angles. It can be reviewed immediately. That means officials will be able to see much more quickly, some of the same replays everyone is seeing on TV. And just maybe, some of those delays to get a call right won't be so long.
"The last thing you want ... is a four-minute delay that takes the energy out of the building and cools the players down and all that," said Kim Jackson. He is director of basketball operations for DVSport. The company is the system's developer.
"No. 1, you've got to get the call right. But No. 2, we need to be hopefully as efficient as possible.
"Delaying a game can change momentum and impact the game."
No longer will there be extended delays in the tournament because an official has to go to a monitor with only a network feed and put on a headset. Then the official must explain exactly what he or she wants to see. It is a familiar scene in many smaller conferences lucky enough to have a TV feed to rely on.
That process usually led to the officials seeing the back of their heads on the monitor. That was while the video was being cued. Cameras showed them waiting to see the replay. Meanwhile, the TV audience had already seen it multiple times.
The DVSport system was used by several leagues during the season. With it, game officials generally have instant access to the main TV feed. They also can see three other angles.
The refs have a pad with a shuttle control. That allows them to watch from different angles. And at different speeds. They can zoom in on individual frames, too. If necessary, they can then request views additional cameras might have captured.
"We utilize replay to make sure we got it right," veteran official Joe DeRosa said. "It's really a valuable tool."
DeRosa is one of only two officials who has worked both the NCAA Final Four and the NBA Finals. He called Big 12 Tournament games last week. His regular-season schedule included games in the Big 12, SEC, American and Conference USA. Each conference uses DVSport. The ACC also uses the system. And the Big East men had it available during their tournament last week.
"Our officials have the same passion as our coaches. They want to make their team play better and make minimum mistakes and continue to improve," said John Underwood. He is the Big 12 associate commissioner for men's basketball and game management. "They want to get the plays right."
DVSport is already well-known to many pro and college sports teams. It offers custom software packages. They allow coaches and players to use iPads or laptops to break down film of themselves or opposing teams. The company is based in Pittsburgh. It got into football replay after the Big Ten had a pilot program. Then it got NCAA approval on a proposal to allow conferences and independent institutions to experiment with the use of video replay. That was during the 2005 season.
Now common in football, a replay system specific to basketball was introduced five years later. It is going to be used in the Big Dance for the first time. The Big Dance is another nickname for the championship tournament.
Jackson said basketball officials were consulted during development. They asked for control of the video and standard-sized monitors. They also want to see the video in high definition.
"Sometimes they would go to one school and they would have a 7-inch monitor that's black and white," he said. "And they're expected to make a decision that affects the outcome of the game. And then you have got everybody at home watching it on 50-inch HD TVs."
The NCAA will also use DVSport for replays in all Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff games. The replays will be used in the semifinal and championship games in Division II and Division III football.
Division I basketball tournaments will also debut Precision Timing Systems technology. It is already used by most Division I conferences. That's where officials stop the clock simply by blowing the whistle. The clock restarts when a switch is flipped on the ref's belt pack.
Critical thinking challenge: What can happen when viewers at home can see a replay before officials?