Why Paul Johnson opposes replay technology for coaches

Paul Johnson is a leader at a school that lives on the cutting edge of science and technology.

In at least one aspect of his job, though, the Georgia Tech coach finds technology to be an unwelcome intrusion. At the ACC spring meetings Wednesday, he had plenty of company. The league’s football coaches soundly voted against the use of video for coaching purposes during games.

The NCAA had originally approved use of replay technology in the press box and at halftime in March, but approved a request from the football rules committee in April that the rule be delayed until 2017. There were concerns that rules makers needed more time to create guidelines that would be equitable and allow for consistent application of the rule.

Johnson has an understandable opposition to a rule that would enable opposing coaches to watch in-game replays of his unorthodox offense.

“I think it takes away coaching,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “That was one of the things I always liked to think I was decent at, was looking out there and seeing what was going on. Now, anybody can do it if they can sit up there and look at the monitor and run it back.”

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Johnson is renowned for his ability to adjust to the opposition on the fly, a byproduct of the experience gained from coaching the same offense since 1985.

“You give ’em this, they’ve got an answer,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. “They’re going to this.”

Handing coaches a tablet to review plays in the coaching box or at halftime would likely aid their ability to recognize Johnson’s tweaks and answer back.

“Now, people are going to look, they’re going to figure out a lot quicker how you’re blocking them and how you’re doing things,” Johnson said.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was one of the few coaches in favor.

With video, “you know exactly what’s wrong with the play,” Fisher said. “Which kid made a mistake, how to correct him, how to show him. He’s over there saying, ‘No, no, no.’ You say, ‘No, look here.’ Just like you do in a film session.”

Johnson’s concerns didn’t pertain only to in-game advantages. There could be costs in setting up coaching boxes and locker rooms to handle extra monitors or tablets and connecting them with a video system. There would also need to be uniformity in how the technology is used — the number of monitors and tablets available for use, for instance.

“Georgia State and Alabama won’t have the same budget for it,” Johnson said. “Or Georgia Tech and Alabama won’t have the same budget for it.”

Interestingly, high-school football has gone further with use of video technology than the NCAA or the NFL, as high-school teams can review video on the sidelines and in the coaching box. NFL teams can only use still photos, although video review is under consideration. NCAA rules prohibit any replay equipment or photos of any kind.

Despite ACC coaches’ opposition to the rule Tuesday, it has the air of inevitability as technology seeps into every corner of life. Johnson didn’t see the debate being framed by money, as NCAA rules matters often are.

Said Johnson, “More old-school guys (are opposed) and younger guys are, yippee.”

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