Get ready for a new look at some SEC football games this fall — refs wearing small mics and earpieces. The NCAA football rules committee has approved a waiver that will allow the SEC to test wireless communications technology during some league games.
“We see great promise in this. One of the questions is could this be a distraction to the crew? We’re going to learn if it is. If it’s a distraction, we’re not going to use it. My goal is to have a better product of officiating on the field, and I think this is a tool that will help us get there.”
The upsides: Officials may have an easier time explaining penalties to coaches without huddling. Ditto the ability to enforce penalties without huddling. With less on-field gatherings, the game could move just a wee bit quicker.
Potential downsides: Raucous SEC stadiums could become too loud for officials to even hear what’s being said into their earpieces. According to former SEC head of officials and current national supervisor of officials, Rogers Redding, “One of the challenges would be a big part of officiating is concentration, and you wouldn’t want a lot of chit-chat.”
The league has nine officiating crews and two of those units will be outfitted with the earpieces and tiny mics on their collars. There will be no Broadway-style mics.
For those wondering, the SEC also said that officials in the instant replay booth will be able to hear the conversation on the field, but they will not be able to chime in. According to Shaw, “We’d never have a situation where the replay guy looked at pass interference and said, ‘You need to pick up that flag.”
Will the new technology work? Not enough to make many, many, many SEC fans stop complaining about the league’s officials. That’s just part of fandom. And there’s not a conference out there whose fans don’t honestly believe they have the worst refs in the world.