Ever heard a fan complain about a blown call? The Big Sky Conference is bringing out the muzzle this fall.
Instant replay is coming for football and men's and women's basketball for each Big Sky venue this school year, league commissioner Doug Fullerton announced Saturday. The league is adding designated replay officials for each game to work with existing officiating crews.
The Big Sky has signed an agreement with DVSport, a provider of replay software that is already in use at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. All 13 football stadiums and 12 basketball arenas will be equipped with replay capabilities for the 2015-16 school year.
"It's huge and obviously it's something that's great for our student-athletes, our teams and especially our fans," said Jean Gee, Montana's senior associate athletic director. "And it's something fans have become used to and almost expect now."
Instant replay made its first appearance in football in the NFL in 1986 but didn't enter the college spectrum until 2006 in the FBS. Soon after, it appeared in the Football Championship Subdivision in postseason play.
The Southland Conference was FCS's first to adopt replay in all home games last season with a handful of others experimenting in televised games the past few years.
Among that list are the Colonial Athletic Association, Big South, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley and Southwestern Athletic conferences.
But replay has had its issues in FCS -- remember that gaff against Coastal Carolina from two years ago? -- and Gee said the conference was biding its time until implementation could guarantee consistency from one stadium to the next.
"We had to take the time to make sure that all of our facilities, we all had the capabilities to do it," she said. "We don't want someone coming to our stadium and having a different experience than, say, going to MSU's stadium."
Replay has been in the works in the Big Sky for about two years, Gee said, though discussions among administrators date back a few years further.
Big Sky institutions have been prepping areas in their respective facilities this summer for the new replay equipment and extra game day personnel. Karl Richins, director of football officials for the league, has hired and trained specific replay officials who will travel throughout the year with the same officiating crews.
"We see the value in having the same replay official work with the same officiating crew throughout the season," Fullerton said. "That person upstairs plays a vital role in working with our on-field officials."
The replay official will oversee replay execution in much the same way that already exists at the FBS level and in major college basketball arenas.
In basketball, that includes use of replay to confirm shot-clock violations or possession on out-of-bounds plays in the final 2 minutes of regulation or overtime. Officials may also check the tape to determine which player committed fouls.
Other things that can be checked include field goal distance (two points vs. three points), who should shoot free throws on foul calls and player participation in physical altercations on the court.
Football is slightly more complicated with both official and coach reviews now on the table.
Officials can double-check plays involving a sideline, goal line or end zone, as well as detectable situations like fumbles, completions/incompletions and clock adjustments.
When deemed necessary, the replay official will activate pagers worn by game officials on the field to indicate a stoppage of play.
Each head coach is also allowed one challenge per game. An unsuccessful challenge comes with a one timeout penalty. A successful attempt returns the timeout to said team and allows that coach one more replay challenge in the game.
That could make for quite a few more stops in the action, something a speed-centric team like this year's Montana Grizzlies might find detrimental.
"It's not a positive for an up-tempo offense," first-year Griz head coach Bob Stitt said. "You could have it going and they decide to review a play that really doesn't matter. Then the defense gets a big break.
"It's like another TV timeout. It'll drive ya crazy."
NCAA Division II, where Stitt spent the last 15 years as coach of Colorado School of Mines, featured replay in only the semifinals and finals of the national playoffs. Replay already had a much larger footprint on the FCS game, he acknowledged.
"You're planning on playing in the playoffs and they're gonna have it there, so you might as well get used to it," Stitt said. "...As long as they're getting it right -- and as long as it goes your way -- I think it's good."
Replay will make its Big Sky debut when Montana opens the football season Aug. 29 against North Dakota State as part of ESPN's second annual FCS Kickoff.