Steve Shaw on Ineligible Lineman Downfield Rule: “We’re Going to Leave It at Three Yards, But We Don’t Want It To Be Anything Beyond That”
Steve Shaw, the director of officiating for the Southeastern Conference, joined Ryan Fowler to talk about the upcoming college football season, but also to look back on the past season and discuss the rules that the officials may not have called as stringently as they should or could have, and how that could change in the 2016 season.
It's been a point of controversy within the college football community: were the officials calling the games appropriately, concerning the ineligible lineman downfield rule? In a couple games over the past couple of years that immediately come to some Alabama fans' minds, the referees did miss the calls on some integral plays. This sparked outrage that the referees weren't doing their jobs, but Shaw explained that there was more to it than simply missing a call.
"We were nationally struggling with this [rule]... in the old days, when we had drop backs, sprint-out passes, and roll-outs, it was still easy to officiate. But now, with read options, you get quarterbacks that get on the corner and all of a sudden throw a pass, it's very difficult for the umpire to do it.
What the rule says... it's where the offensive lineman is at the release point, it's not during the pass. You have to snap shot the field at the release point."
With this being the case, the umpire, who Shaw explained was responsible for making the call, has to watch both the quarterback throwing the ball and simultaneously watch the offensive linemen, a task that is quite difficult, even trying to do so on a television screen.
Shaw explained that if an umpire saw that a lineman was seven yards downfield at the time of the catch, he could use logic to determine that the lineman was well past the three-yard threshold and he could easily make the proper call. However, when a lineman is closer to four or five yards soon after the time of the pass, it's incredibly difficult to use logic to determine where the lineman was at the release point.
You can hear the entire interview below.