ARLINGTON — The University Interscholastic League isn’t afraid to try new things to make the best use of technological advances. But it has to be something that its member coaches support.
Last year, the UIL utilized instant replay for the first time for its 12 state championship games from Class A to 6A.
On Friday, UIL athletic director Susan Elza met with the Texas High School Coaches Association football advisory committee and came away impressed with the amount of interest in possibly trying a coach-to-quarterback communication system. The technology would be placed in the quarterback’s helmet, allowing them to talk to a coach while on the field instead of relying on hand signals.
“It was a small gathering, but every coach in there was like, ‘Oh yeah,’” Elza said. “There are a lot of new systems in place out there that are relatively inexpensive.
“The THSCA will be helping vet that for us through their regional meetings. They’ll come back to us with information and tell us if they would like us to approach the football rules committee with that change. I’m interested to see where that goes.”
The NFL first used a quarterback helmet radio system in 1994.
The UIL continued to use instant replay for just the state championship games, taking advantage of 11 camera angles that are provided with all of the games broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest or FOX Sports Southwest Plus. The UIL consulted with coaches and officials who utilized replay at last year’s state title games, and “the conclusion was that it was good,” Elza said.
“There were really no true adjustments that we had to make,” Elza said. “The bottom line is, you just want to get the call right. Our officials are good. They do their job on the field. It’s those bam-bam plays that you want to get reviewed.”
“Our model is the college model, so it doesn’t fit probably regular-season games.”
But could it be expanded to the state semifinals if all of those games could be played at college stadiums that would have the required technology?
“To me, the momentum is going to continue to push forward [for that],” Elza said. “You’re going to have to have the equipment, which they probably will. Then you’re going to have to have a college review official. Our current high school officials, as experienced as they are, there is training for that.”
Through the first three days of the four-day state championships, there were 18 replay reviews, with 10 reversals. The average review time was 1 minute, 29 seconds.
A key review came with 9:12 left in Saturday’s Class 6A Division I state championship game, after it was ruled that Galena Park North Shore fumbled and Duncanville recovered at its 42-yard line with North Shore leading 24-17. After a two-minute review, the call was confirmed.
This is the final year of the UIL’s two-year agreement to hold its football state championship games at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. When asked where next year’s state title games will be played, Elza would only say, “We’re hoping to announce something soon.”
AT&T Stadium has hosted the title games eight of the last nine years, with the only exception being in 2015, when they were moved to NRG Stadium in Houston because of a scheduling conflict at AT&T. The average per-game attendance in 2015 was 13,524, compared to 19,009 last season and 16,565 for the first 11 state finals this year.
The attendance was 47,818 for Saturday’s Class 6A Division I state championship game in which No. 7 Galena Park North Shore beat No. 2 Duncanville 31-17 in a matchup of nationally ranked teams. That is the sixth-largest crowd on record in state history, and four of those games were state finals played at AT&T Stadium.
The state record is 54,347 for the 2013 Allen vs. Pearland state title game at AT&T Stadium. A crowd of 42,363 attended last year’s state final between Duncanville and North Shore, won 41-36 by North Shore on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass.
“We’re very happy here,” Elza said. “They’re unbelievable here. They roll out the red carpet for our teams and our fans and our communities.”