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‘Sky Judge’ Rule Proposals Pulled Without Vote, But Preseason Test For 2020 Is Likely

The owners will be meeting virtually today to vote on a number of new proposals for rules changes, among them the possibility of adopting a new onside kick rule that would allow teams to attempt a scrimmage play on fourth and 15 from their own 25 rather than attempting the onside kick.

This has drawn most of the headlines pertaining to this virtual meeting, but my greater interest was trained upon the two proposals submitted pertaining to the installation of an eighth official that would serve in some type of ‘sky judge’ capacity, a part of the core officiating team that would have access to video replay live to make in-game corrections before calls are officially made.

Both of those proposals have now been scrapped, and won’t even be voted on, even though it’s an idea that has gained a lot of traction after both the AAF and XFL had some success in running similar procedures during their short ventures over the past two years.

That doesn’t mean the idea is dead, however. The Competition Committee, for example, announced that it “was unanimously in support of a preseason test in 2020” of a booth official role that would serve as an experiment to see how it functions. Especially in recent years, the preseason has become a laboratory for testing potential modifications, many of which have not been adopted, though some have.

“The Committee felt this was a critical and appropriate first step in the due diligence of instituting measures that could significantly impact how the game is officiated and how changes could affect the current Instant Replay system”, the press release reads.

“The Committee believed a comprehensive review of key learnings from the 2020 preseason, along with further research and thorough in-person discussions were necessary before any changes for regular season games were contemplated”.

This come on the heels of Troy Vincent coming out and saying that the league’s adoption and execution of its pass interference replay rule last year was a colossal failure. It’s clear that they want to be more cautious because of how much they botched rolling out that rule, to the point where there isn’t even any proposal on the table at all to consider anything similar.

The Competition Committee recommends the allowance of officiating department personnel to “provide objective information to on-field officials” in certain capacities, pertaining to game administration, whether or not a catch was made, the spotting of the ball, down by contact, and game clock operations.

The release adds that requested information must be provided before the game clock runs down to :25, and information will only be available based on the network broadcast. The officiating department at the end of the preseason will then advise the Competition Committee as to whether or not they believe certain elements can be implemented broadly.

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