OMAHA, Neb. — In a move praised by coaches, the NCAA plans to use instant replay on an experimental basis to review certain calls at the College World Series next year.
Reviewable plays would be limited to deciding if an apparent home run is fair or foul, whether a batted ball left the playing field for a home run or a ground-rule double, or whether there is fan interference on apparent home runs.
The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee proposed the rule, which must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.
"I'm all for anything that gets the calls right," LSU's Paul Mainieri said. "There's a lot at stake in the College World Series. If you have the technology available, then why not use it?"
The instant-replay process will operate under the assumption that the ruling on the field is correct. The only way a call could be changed is if there is indisputable video evidence that a ruling was wrong.
The Baseball Rules Committee said in a statement that there were a few calls at last month's CWS that would have merited a review under the guidelines.
One in particular was an apparent home run by Florida's Brian Johnson that was ruled a double.
Johnson hit a ball that bounced back into play after striking the railing above the yellow line atop the right-center wall. The NCAA umpire coordinator said in a statement after the game that the umpires' decision to hold Johnson at second base was wrong.
The play didn't have a bearing on the outcome – Florida won 8-4 – "but that would have been a home run," Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
Mainieri said he watched the game on television and thought the second-base umpire, who disallowed the home run, suffered needlessly.
"I'm sure if they had been able to look at replay, the umpire would have been glad to have that happen," Mainieri said. "Instead, the umpire has the camera on him the next three innings and the whole world knows he missed a call. Those aren't easy calls. Nobody has that great of eyesight to see a play from 200 feet and whether the ball hit 2 inches above the line."
The use of instant replay is left to the discretion of the umpire crew chief and must occur before the next pitch or play. There would not be a formal "coaches challenge" opportunity, though under college rules coaches are able to request a conference among umpires.
If instant replay is used, the umpire who made the disputed call and the crew chief would go to a designated area to review all relevant video. At least one umpire would remain on the field.
During a review, the defensive team players would be required to maintain their positions and other players and coaches would have to stay in the dugout. There is no time limit, but lengthy reviews are discouraged and would be considered possible evidence that there is no indisputable video evidence to change a call.
The crew chief makes the final decision on whether a call stands or is reversed.
The Baseball Rules Committee originally proposed that instant replay be used in regionals and super regionals as well as the CWS. But the Division I Baseball Committee cautioned against that because not all regional and super regional sites have access to the same technology as TD Ameritrade Park, the new home of the CWS.
Division I Baseball Committee chairman Tim Weiser said there are 17 camera angles available, thanks to ESPN's coverage of the CWS.
"Baby steps are good," Florida State coach Mike Martin said. "Like anything else, we have to grow with it."
Coaches said there hadn't been a lot of conversation in college baseball about instant replay, but Baseball Rules Committee chairman Jeff Hurd said its time has come at the CWS.
"The technology is there. We are not doing due diligence to the sport if we don't use it," Hurd said. "At the same time, there is a fine line as to how far you go with it. That's the reason for its limited use."