Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Tuesday July 25, 2017

Bill Carollo

Coordinator of Football Officials

THE MODERATOR: Next we're joined by Bill Carollo, Coordinator of Football Officials.

BILL CAROLLO: Thank you and good morning. It's always a pleasure for me to address the media at Media Days here in Chicago. It's also an honor to lead the Big Ten officiating staff, and I'm entering my ninth year as doing that.

And things continue to change. If you heard and listened to the commissioner and all of our coaches actually talk about the changes that we've seen as far as football and the landscape in college football, it is not just for the players or the coaches or the conference office, but it's for our officials, too, to adapt and change with these continued changes to our game.

If you think about what we've done in the last 10 years, as far as rule changes, most of it has been around player safety. That's still our number one priority. Players' health and safety, when we start talking about low blocks, cut blocks, peel-back blocks, low hits to the quarterback, you know, we've expanded the defenseless players, that category.

And, of course, targeting. And targeting started back in 2008, and it has evolved, and it usually grabs the headlines with regard to player safety. But certainly there's a lot of other changes that we've seen to the game and when we don't get some of those calls like targeting correct, we've added technology.

We've added replay to our targeting. So as of last year we allowed replay to create a targeting foul. And if for some reason if we do miss it on the field and it bypasses our replay booth, we've put in certified athletic trainers up in the booth to monitor players' health and safety.

We're doing a lot of things along that line, but we've done some other things as far as technology. We've added the eighth official on the field with headsets, communications between the officials.

We've put in sideline monitors for replace so the collaboration between the referee on the field and the replay booth has improved. So we're trying to make the game better.

Our goal is to continue to improve. We're only as good as our last call. And last season was a solid season for us, but we know it wasn't perfect. So we'll continue to keep working on that.

And we've been doing that for the last six months with camps and clinics, spring football, we're just about to enter into the August camps, and that will be the finishing touches before we kick off the season.

So I feel very confident where we're at with regard to our officials and our staff. As I said, our officials and our staff continues to change also.

We've had several go to the NFL. We've had some that retired recently, and then because we talk about accountability, because of performance, some officials aren't back each year, aren't invited back. But I'm really pleased and confident that we're ready to kick off the season and we're ready to go come September 1st.

Couple of the new rule changes, when you start to look at -- this is an offseason. There's a process rule changes. It's not the Big Ten Conference deciding what the rule is, it's a national program with the rules committee as well as the competition committee, the oversight committee, and they all collaborate together to come together and look at the new rules.

As far as this process is concerned, we're really focused on four major areas on a national emphasis for points of emphasis, targeting, of course, and I'll talk a little bit more detail with that with some of the questions that have come up in the last day, but also the sideline management.

We put a rule in a couple years ago that the white area is the officials' area. The coaching box is for the coaches and there's a player's team box. And we wanted to keep that white area free during live balls. We've done a nice job doing that.

But we're going to expand that a little bit. And we aren't changing the rule but a big point of emphasis this year is if you're going to come out on the field as a coach or as a player or any team personnel, come out and challenge a call, complain about a call, you get a 15-yard penalty immediately, if you come out on the field to challenge the call.

So you can certainly come out during timeouts, attend to your players, injured players, et cetera, do some coaching, but there's a separate rule from the area of the white on the sideline control.

So it's a new point of emphasis. Usually we were pretty lenient in this area. And we're going to tighten that up a little bit. We don't have a problem in the Big Ten as far as our coaches and their demeanor, but across the country it's a national point of emphasis. So that's a major area that we want to take a look at.

The other area is pace of play. We've run in 2010, to this current last season, we've gone from three hours to ten minutes to three hours and 24 minutes for the average game in college football.

Now, the Big Ten's a little less than that, three hours and 21 minutes, but across the country you'll see more efficiency by the officials on the field and halftime is only going to be the maximum 20 minutes. It will be halftime is going to be halftime, 20 minutes. We'll start the clock after we clear the field and then wind it immediately and then we expect the players to go right at the 20-minute when it comes down to zero.

So that will be another area as well as being with substitutions, we're going to be a little bit more efficient getting the ball in play. We don't want to take plays away from the teams but where dead ball times, we're going to get the clock moving as quickly as possible.

Unsportsmanlike conduct is also another area that always along with player safety is an area that we have a keen eye on throughout the season at least in the past five or six seasons.

Couple of new rule changes, we've expanded the leaping and hurtling rule. We've tightened that up a little bit. You can't come from the second level, the linebacker position, on extra points in field goals. You can't take a running start, jump, leap, and try to block the kick.

15-yard penalty for leaping or hurtling, we've expanded that. Before if you took off from the line of scrimmage it was legal but you couldn't land on somebody and now this year you just can't take a running start, whether you land on anybody or not, it's going to be a foul.

And then we've also expanded the horse collar tackle. So the rule previously had to do with getting the hand inside the collar, inside the shoulder pads and having a jerking motion down and buckling the legs.

Now we've expanded it to the nameplate area. So it doesn't have to be on the inside of the collar, just above the numbers in the nameplate area, that would be a targeting call, excuse me, that would be a horse collar that we will call this year. So we've expanded that.

I know we had a few questions on the targeting side and the targeting numbers are up as far as I think we've done a good job, but the numbers are up across the country as far as there's a trend going upward, and I think we've done a really nice job, the coaches have done an outstanding job. They deserve the credit, but we're calling more targeting calls.

We're overturning more in replay. But the net is we're up a little bit. So we've taken away the big hits, the real dangerous plays, but it's still with the numbers going up we can't relax and think that we've got this problem solved because we're very concerned about the targeting issues.

Q. Kirk Ferentz who knows a thing or two about the offensive line is openly critical about the low blocking and rotation, four weeks, four different interpretations. And last month when I talked to him he still didn't seem satisfied with how it's been dealt with. What can you say how you've ascertained your officials how to enforce that consistently throughout the season?
BILL CAROLLO: It's a rule that if you take a look at, when I talked about changes, the first one I mentioned is low blocks. We've probably had five or six changes in the last 10 years on how or what to call for low blocks. So it's a really good question.

I've been working with the Iowa coaching staff for the last couple of years on this. Now, unfortunately this year is a player safety area even though sometimes low blocks like hits on quarterbacks, you know, would fall into the player safety, it's been put off to next year, but what we did and really led by Coach Ferentz was we've surveyed all the head coaches in FBS and asked them their interpretation, what they'd like to see with regard to low blocks, because it is a dangerous area, cut blocks are dangerous.

And we're starting to get the results back. They aren't all in. But we'll assemble those results, take it to the rules committee, take it to the coordinators and put together a mechanics manual, a philosophy manual, as well as changing the rules, if need be we'll change that rule, but it's been under the microscope the last few years and it was really led by a couple of letters that Kirk Ferentz has written to myself as well as the NCAA, Rogers Redding, and the rules committee.

Q. You mentioned the pace of play and the length of game along with some of the changes to replay. How do you see replay fitting into helping with pace of play?
BILL CAROLLO: Well, you notice that I talked about technology when we put headsets -- we've expanded the headsets not just to the eight officials on the field and the alternate that we have in the Big Ten. We're also putting a headset on with the replay person upstairs.

So if they can make a quick confirmation let's say on a touchdown, instead of actually waiting, going through the whole process, calling down to the sideline attendant, they can get on the headset and tell the referee: Touchdown is confirmed. Areas of that nature. Maybe the down box didn't flip, maybe the clock didn't start. So that type of administrative communication will be helpful.

They aren't making the calls but anything administratively we do allow replay now to communicate. And one thing I didn't mention is there are some conferences that are experimenting with collaboration with the command center several miles away from the stadium, and that collaboration, similar to what we are doing in the Big Ten with monitors on the sideline, but the headsets are a good vehicle for the officials, but also it's a tremendous vehicle for the coaches, the coach wants to get some information, what did he do on the pass interference, was it a cut-off, arm bar, etc., who did it and what happened, I want to talk to the guy, and we can give them that answer real quick.

So that technology has been helping us.

Q. My question goes back to targeting, and in some cases it seems to be like an all encompassing call that doesn't really differentiate between intent and actual head-to-head contact. Do you anticipate ever trying to splice that between intentional helmet-to-helmet or accidental helmet-to-helmet that just results in a helmet-to-helmet hit?
BILL CAROLLO: Really good question. First of all, the intent, that word is really not part of most of our definitions when we say pass interference, well he didn't intend to pass and interfere.

Whether it's targeting or holding, he didn't mean to hold him but he happened to grab the guy. So that isn't in there. But what we're trying to do, first we said you made contact above the head, head and neck area, above the shoulders.

Then we put in forceable contact. So that got closer to the intent. The helmets kissed they came together, there wasn't forceable contact. So we're trying to expand the replay role as well as targeting definitions for officials what to look for on the field.

So we look for good indicators and bad indicators, high risk indicators. If he comes in with his helmet down, leads with his crown, comes in with force, if he can't see his target. If he doesn't wrap up. He doesn't keep his head up, doesn't move his head to the side. There are a lot of things that we're trying to do that we aren't saying he didn't mean to do it. It wasn't intentional, but we're looking for indicators and good and bad indicators that would help us get there.

Now, because it happened so fast, it's a very difficult call for our officials. So we advocated let's get replay involved and replay in slow motion, high definition has a really good vantage point to take that really difficult play, slow it down, see what happened on that play.

So we overturned -- we called 22 in the Big Ten last year. Four of them were overturned that were not targeting, but I'm telling our officials, when it's close like that, and it has to do with players' health and safety, we want the flag thrown. I want a discussion, collaboration among the officials, and if you're still not sure, we'll send it up to the replay booth.

That's the proper mechanics. We're going to err on the side of safety when it comes to this. So there's a lot of things that go into that, and if we do miss it, and even last year, three of them, of the 22, it just stood, which means whatever we called we're going to stay with that call.

So maybe you can net it down to about 15 calls, it's a very difficult call. We use technology to help us, and when we do miss it, we've got that certified athletic trainer upstairs. We've got replay looking at it and they can create that foul. But it's a tough area. I'm not making excuses. They pay us to make those calls and we'll make them and we're training on it and we spend at least 50 percent of our time in training trying to understand that, because if I miss a pass interference, you know, I'm not real happy.

If we miss a targeting call, I am really, really disappointed, because we've got different areas of the game on the field, eight officials, that's why we went to the eighth official. Now we put it in the hands of replay. Now we've put it in the hands of a spotter upstairs to help us.

We do not ever want to miss a targeting call. Now we did have one call last year we made the call, but it didn't rise to -- it had all the indicators, but it wasn't over and above either a block, a tackle, in this case the player was making a play on the ball and we made a mistake on that play.

But I hate to miss it and make a mistake and let a hit like that go through and not flag it.

Q. Pat Fitzgerald said earlier that he wants repeat offenders and teams that have been getting targeting calls repeatedly to be looked at. Is that something you guys are considering?
BILL CAROLLO: We've had discussions on that, repeat offenders. I mean, obviously if you do it one time, you're out, right from that standpoint. And there was a lot of discussion with the rules committee, if we can't confirm it, to the example I was talking about, we had three plays that stood, there was a lot of talk, let's change the rule, let's just make it a 15-yard penalty and let them stay in the game. That had a lot of momentum for a couple of months in the offseason.

But I think cooler heads prevailed on this because we wanted to keep it in the game the way it is today. And I think that repeat offenders, teams that continue to target players, usually it's a phone call from me, to the head coach, highlighting that situation and giving them some reminders, and if he wanted us to bring some officials to kind of talk through that.

But we have a targeting film that we take to all the teams, you show it to them and explain here's the difference, here's why this is a targeting, here's why this is not targeting.

But I think that the rules committee is looking at it. They're talking about it, but certainly we don't have a big problem in the Big Ten with regard to number of targeting calls compared to any of the major five conferences or all FBS. We're below the average, but it doesn't mean that one isn't too many when we have it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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Rev #2 by #267 at 2017-07-25 15:18:00 GMT

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