GHSA sets protocols for video replay in football championships

Class AAAA title game: Cartersville players (left) and Blessed Trinity players participate in the coin toss with officials before the start of the Class AAAA State Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/Special to the AJC)

Class AAAA title game: Cartersville players (left) and Blessed Trinity players participate in the coin toss with officials before the start of the Class AAAA State Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/Special to the AJC)

The Georgia High School Association has established tentative video review protocols to be used for this year’s football championship games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The replay rules - shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday and almost certain to be approved at the GHSA’s executive committee meeting next month - call for three video review officials, two in a restricted area of the press box and one on the sideline.

The head replay official may call for reviews at any time while head coaches are limited to one challenge per half signaled by throwing a red flag.

“The time is right,’’ GHSA executive director Robin Hines said. “While there hasn’t been an epidemic (of controversial calls), there have been a couple over the past six years that would’ve benefited from review. We have the technology to do a good job, NFHS rules now allow it, and our goal is to get it right.”

The spark for adopting video replay came during the Class 3A championship game in December. In a 21-17 victory over Cedar Grove, Sandy Creek scored the winning touchdown on third-down play that GPB Sports video indicated fell almost a yard short of the goal line.

Within days, as video of the play was going viral, GHSA board-of-trustees members were discussing change. In January, they voted unanimously to bring the matter before the GHSA’s executive committee at the annual spring meeting April 17. Hines expects ‘’overwhelming if not unanimous approval’' next month.

That would make Georgia one of fewer than 20 states to adopt some form of video replay. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) didn’t allow it until around 2018.

In 2017, GHSA endured a similar state-championship firestorm when Peach County’s potential go-ahead touchdown was ruled an incomplete pass on fourth down late in a 10-6 loss to Calhoun.

The GHSA plans to limit video review to the football championships for now. Other sports could follow. “One step at a time,’’ Hines said.

The football protocols are the work of a committee comprising Kevin Giddens, the GHSA’s football director; James Arnold, a 38-year Georgia football official and the state training coordinator; and David Reynolds, another long-time official and trainer.

Giddens said the biggest difference between the GHSA’s plan and NCAA or NFL replay rules would be that on-field officials would play no role in reviewing or ruling on calls. Their only jobs would be to stop play when a challenge is made and to announce the final decision.

“This won’t require additional training (for on-field officials) or any change in their mechanics,’’ Giddens said.

The two press box officials would make the review decisions and relay them to the field. They would have access to the Falcons’ video replay equipment, but Hines said all costs hadn’t been sorted out.

The GHSA would train review officials, though Giddens said he hoped to get experienced replay officials. They would be paid the same as the seven game officials. That was $175 per official in the 2022 championships.

Replay officials would have access to video from network television, including GPB, which televises the state finals, and other video means on site such as live-streaming.

“The Video Review official and their crew shall review every play of a game,’’ the protocols state. “The Video Review official may stop a game at any time before the ball is next legally put in play whenever they believe that: 1. There is reasonable evidence to believe an error was made in the initial on-field ruling. 2. The play is reviewable. 3. The outcome of a review would have a direct, competitive impact on the game.”

A coach initiating a review would not be charged a time out unless the challenge did not meet the criteria for a reviewable play.

The protocols would prevent stadium video from showing the challenged play until a ruling is made, and then only once at regular speed.

Review officials would be expected to resolve challenges in two minutes and err on the side of sticking with the on-field call.

“To reverse an on-field ruling, the Video Review official must be convinced beyond all doubt by indisputable video evidence through one or more video replays provided to the monitors,’’ the protocols state.

“You’re always concerned about time because we are on a schedule,’’ said Hines, noting that there are as many as three championship games played in a day. “We’ll enter into reviews with the idea that the call on the field was right [until proven otherwise]. We’re to get that done as quickly as possible. Keeping things going is important as well.’’

The GHSA plans to test the review system during the Corky Kell Dave Hunter Classic’s four games Saturday, Aug. 17 at Mercedes-Benz.

Sandy Creek linebacker Marcellius Pulliam (8) greets Cedar Grove quarterback Elliott Colson (11) after their game in the GHSA Class 3A finals, at Center Parc Stadium, Saturday, December 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Sandy Creek won 21-17. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /