The Big 12 Conference’s full embrace of the no-huddle, uptempo offense showed in the offseason. The league has decided to add an eighth member to the officiating crews this season. His main purpose is to spot the ball.
However, at last week’s Big 12 Football Media Days, some coaches expressed their belief that an eighth official might help to make the game more even-handed.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy offered his own viewpoint.
“They added an official years ago because of more forward passes, I believe. They had to have an official to where they could see down the field more because people start throwing more passes,” Gundy said. “Well, now a number of teams are uptempo. And this allows the officials to get the ball set where an offense can play and a defense can play, and they can still officiate the game.
“What that does, it allows one person to get the ball and get it set and get out of the way instead of a person trying to do that and also look at what he’s supposed to be looking at to officiate the game.”
The Cowboys play at an offensive pace as fast as any team in college football. It’s natural that Gundy would applaud an opportunity to go even faster.
However, some conference coaches see adding another official as a way to help the defenses adjust to the blinding pace.
It takes a lot more than 11 players to utilize an uptempo offense. There are frequent substitutions throughout drives. It’s mostly receivers and running backs sprinting on and off the field after plays.
But any offensive substitution is supposed to give the defense an opportunity to do the same. The eighth official is also there to hold up play so defenses are given the opportunity to substitute.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who runs one of the few offenses in the league that still huddles, wanted the extra official for that reason.
“With these fast-paced offenses, one of the things they do is run receivers 85 yards downfield, throw an incomplete pass, then run four new guys on and they’re ready to go right now,” Snyder said. “Your defensive backs are 80 yards from the line of scrimmage trying to get back and they’re trying to snap the football. Sometimes officials did not see the substitutions.”
Defensive coaches have been screaming about that inequity for years. Every team that runs an uptempo offense has gotten away with it more than a few times.
“The recommendation was the eighth official gives you somebody that can pay attention to that and not allow that to happen,” Snyder said.
Whether or not it plays out that way when the first conference games commence Sept. 7 remains an open question. Oklahoma’s game against West Virginia at Owen Field could very well be the test case for the effectiveness of the additional official. The Sooners and Mountaineers both have the ability to operate at a brisk pace.
OU coach Bob Stoops joined the majority of the conference’s coaches in voting for the extra official. But he admitted it was to help the defense.
“I sometimes wonder how good a position officials are in to call what they need to and see what they need to. So you’ve got another set of eyes on spot substitutions … I thought it could only be good,” Stoops said. “It’ll help govern the game better, whether by seeing substitutions or being in position when the ball is snapped. It has a chance to have more eyes being set and ready to govern the game.”