For Kent Austin, it seemed like a good time to bring up a familiar argument.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach saw his team burned by what he believed to be a missed no-yards call in Thursday’s 26-23 loss to the Alouettes, the ball bouncing off the chest of return man Brandon Banks and into the hands of a Montreal defender. Had a flag been thrown, the second quarter fumble would have been negated.
Instead, Montreal took advantage of the field position and scored seven plays later.
“We have a rule in this game that, theoretically, looks great. It makes the game interesting, ” Austin said after the game. “But it can’t be properly officiated. I’m on record saying that: it’s impossible to officiate that rule consistently.”
The rule itself is simple enough: players must be at least five yards from the ball when it is first touched by a member of the receiving team. But Austin says it’s hard to administer in practice.
“Because of the speed of the players, by the time you look to see if a ball touches a returner and then get your eyes to somebody that’s within the five-yard halo, it’s impossible. You can’t do it, ” he said.
CFL vice-president of officiating Glen Johnson was field judge for eight seasons during his 24-year career as an on-field official and was responsible for making the no-yards call. He agrees that it’s one of the toughest in the game.
“It’s a very tough call. There are a lot of different things going on in a very short period of time, ” Johnson said. “I think our guys do a good job but there are times when it’s difficult to be consistent. There are so many variables that have to be played out in a split second.”
Johnson said he’s spoken to broadcaster TSN about the possibility of adding a five-yard “halo” around ball carrier that would make the call easier for replay officials to see.
“Every camera angle in every stadium is different – there’s a 20 degree angle on one, a 24 degree angle on another – so it gets pretty complicated, pretty quick, ” Johnson said. “At the moment, we don’t think it’s logistically possible but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be shortly.”
Even without additional technology, Austin would like to see no yards added to the list of calls available for review – an option not available to him on Thursday.
“I’m just one voice in the league but it certainly makes logical sense to have those types of plays reviewable.”
“Especially with a rule that’s very difficult to officiate correctly, ” said Austin.
But the rules committee has resisted making the change thus far. And Johnson isn’t sure allowing the command centre to weigh in would improve things.
“Even if you went to replay, you still don’t have the proper perspective, ” Johnson said. “Not everybody thinks replay would make it any better.”
The committee is slated to begin meeting again shortly, with an eye to making recommendations for next season. Count on Austin raising the issue again.
“I feel for the officials with that particular rule and that’s why I hardly ever argue it, ” he said. “It can’t be done.”