Structural Flaws: NFL’s Third Challenge For Head Coaches

In Structural Flaws, I will discuss a particular rule or organizational structure in sports and explain why I agree or disagree with the issue. In this edition…the NFL’s third challenge for head coaches.


The NFL’s replay system has tremendously improved the game by allowing for incorrect calls to be overturned if video evidence clearly shows that the call was wrong. With so many moving parts and with human officials trying to watch every player on every play, there are going to be mistakes. The replay system does a great job of correcting missed calls, which is good for all parties involved.

The challenge system is the method by which coaches can instigate a review. Each head coach gets two challenges per game. If any challenge is successful, the call is overturned and the team issuing the challenge does not lose a time out. If any challenge is unsuccessful, the call stands and the team issuing the challenge loses a time out. If any team is successful on its first two challenges, the team receives a third challenge which they can use in the same manner as the first two. A team can only issue a challenge if they have at least one time out remaining in the half. All plays in the final two minutes of each half and overtime are not subject to coaches’ challenges. Instead, decisions regarding whether any of these plays should be reviewed by the referee are determined by replay officials. All scoring plays and turnovers are also not subject to coaches’ challenges, as these plays are automatically reviewed by the replay officials, who will let the referee know if the play does indeed need to be officially reviewed.

This system does a good job of correcting mistakes. An argument could definitely be made for scrapping the challenge system altogether and replacing it with the system used in the last two minutes of each half and overtime, but for now I will focus on the challenge system as it currently exists. There is one particular part of the challenge system that I really disagree with, that being the rewarding of a third challenge to any team that wins their first two challenges.

I do not believe a team should be rewarded a third challenge simply because they won their first two. I do not think it is not a skill to win two challenges, and therefore, it should not be rewarded with an extra one. Most of the time when a team issues a challenge, they are not necessarily confident that they are going to win the challenge. Sometimes the game situation just calls for a challenge to be made. For example, if a team gives up a big play that has a major detrimental impact on their chances to win the game, that team would practically be compelled to challenge the play if there is any question that the call might not be correct. The result of this replay should have no bearing on whether or not this team should receive another challenge.

Challenges are usually issued because there is a CHANCE they could be overturned and help your team, not because the team has exhibited some great skill and therefore has proven itself worthy of having more opportunities to do so again later in the game.

I suppose the argument could be made that if a team has had two bad calls go against them, and those calls have been overturned, then they deserve to get more chances because it is not their fault the officials messed up. My argument to that is that such a system discourages teams from challenging calls unless they are almost certain they will win the challenge. I contend that teams should be able to challenge questionable plays without the fear that losing a challenge could result in them not getting an extra one later. It is already risky enough that a team would lose a time out if a challenge fails. There should not be an extra risk of losing another opportunity to challenge simply because one or both of their two original challenges could not be overturned.

Another point to be made is that sometimes the video evidence isn’t strong enough to overturn a call even if the call on the field was incorrect. A coach might issue a challenge and be absolutely right, but if the camera wasn’t in the right spot, he could lose the challenge because the evidence cannot be physically seen on the replay. That is not the coach’s fault. The penalty of losing a time out should be enough. He should not be forced to lose an opportunity to issue an extra challenge later because of this.

So I believe that each team should get either two or three challenges per game (I don’t really have a preference), and no extra challenges should be awarded based upon the results from previous challenges.

What do you think?

Bowl Preview: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

The 43rd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be held tomorrow night, January 1, 2014, at 8:30 PM at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

This year’s game features Big 12 champion Baylor (11-1) vs. American Athletic Conference champion Central Florida (11-1).

Baylor    Central Florida

Team History

Baylor, the traditional doormat of the Big 12 Conference, has really turned things around in recent years, as this will mark their 4th consecutive bowl appearance after being shut out from postseason play the previous 15 years. Baylor participated in the 1994 Alamo Bowl but didn’t appear in another bowl game until the 2010 Texas Bowl. This will be Baylor’s 20th bowl appearance in school history. It will be their first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl as well as their first appearance in a BCS bowl. Baylor produced recent Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who won the award in 2011.

Central Florida joined the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) this season after spending 8 years in Conference USA. This will be UCF’s 6th bowl appearance, all of which have come since 2005. As was the case with Baylor, this will be UCF’s first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl as well as their first appearance in a BCS bowl. Central Florida produced former NFL star Daunte Culpepper, who graduated in 1998.


Baylor is coached by Art Briles, who is in his 6th season at the school after spending the previous 5 seasons at Houston. Briles has an overall record of 78-59 (44-31 at Baylor). This will be his 8th bowl game (4th at Baylor).

NCAA Football: Wofford at Baylor

Central Florida is coached by George O’Leary, who is in his 10th season at the school after spending 8 seasons at Georgia Tech and 2 seasons as an assistant with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. O’Leary is perhaps best known for being hired as the head coach at Notre Dame on December 9, 2001, and then resigning 5 days later as it was revealed that his resume contained inaccurate information. O’Leary has produced an overall college record of 123-89 (71-56 at UCF). This will be his 10th bowl game (6th at Baylor).

Central Florida Golden Knights v Florida Gators

The Game

Both schools are participating in a BCS bowl game for the first time. Baylor won its first Big 12 championship this season. Central Florida won the American Athletic Conference in its first official year of existence after formerly being called the Big East.

Baylor was the highest-scoring team in all of college football this season, finishing the year averaging 53.3 points per game. Their only loss came when they were blown out at Oklahoma State in November. Their best wins were decisive victories over Oklahoma and Texas.

Central Florida went undefeated in conference play this year, including a victory over Louisville, which was Louisville’s only loss all season. UCF’s only loss came in September when they were narrowly defeated at home against South Carolina. Their best wins this year were the Louisville win and a nonconference win over Penn State. They didn’t exactly blow everybody out, though, as 7 of their 11 wins were by 7 points or fewer.

Bryce Petty    Blake Bortles

Both teams’ marquee players are their quarterbacks – Bryce Petty of Baylor and Blake Bortles of Central Florida. Both quarterbacks are juniors. Petty has already declared that he is returning for his senior season, while Bortles has yet to announce his plans. The draft stock of Bortles has been skyrocketing lately, and he is expected to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the draft if he declares. Both quarterbacks have impressive size, with Petty at 6’3″, 230 pounds, and Bortles at 6’4″, 230 pounds. Petty has completed 61.8 percent of his passes this season for 3,844 yards while throwing for 30 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Bortles has completed 68.1 percent of his passes this season for 3,280 yards while throwing for 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

Both teams statistically have good defenses, with Baylor allowing 21.2 points per game and UCF allowing 19.6 points per game. However, Baylor scores over 20 points per game more than UCF (53.3-33.2).

Baylor is favored to win this game by 17 points, due to their juggernaut offense, better strength of schedule, and significantly higher margin of victory. I think UCF can keep it somewhat respectable but I think Baylor will win by a comfortable margin.

Prediction: Baylor 49, Central Florida 31

Monday Morning Quarterback for December 9th

The 2013 KHSAA High School Football Championships are in the books.  Here are the results.


Class A Final


Mayfield wins its second championship in a row with an impressive win over Williamsburg 42-0.  It was 35-0 Mayfield after one quarter and the Cardinals coasted from there for the victory.  This ended the magical ride for the Yellow Jackets of Williamsburg.  We would like to congratulate Coach Jerry Herron and the Jackets on a great season of their own.

Class 2A Final


In a mild surprise, Louisville DeSales prevents Newport Central Catholic from repeating as State Champs with a 34-26 victory.

Class 3A Final


In an defensive struggle, a third quarter field goal was all that Belfry needed to take the championship over Wayne County 3-0.  It was the first loss for Wayne County in their best season in school history.

Class 4A Final


In the best finish of any of the championship games, Collins wins their 1st state title with a touchdown pass with 7 seconds remaining to prevent Highlands from a 23rd state title 37-24.

Class 5A Final


Down 14-0 after one quarter, Bowling Green scores 49 unanswered points to claim their 3rd state title in a row by defeating Pulaski County 49-14.  The win gives the Purples their 44th straight victory.  That ranks in the top 8 current winning streaks in the Nation.  This ended Pulaski County’s bid for a perfect season of their own.

Class 6A Final

scott county

In a tough contest, Scott County outlasts Meade County 21-14 for Scott County’s first state title since 1975.

DeSales and Collins claim their 1st state title for their football programs.

Congrats to each of the 6 KHSAA Class Football Champions.  Well deserved!!

Well that concludes another great football season for Kentucky state football.  We cannot wait to see what 2014 has to offer.

Have a great week!!

Structural Flaws: College Football Overtime

In Structural Flaws, I will discuss a puzzling rule or organizational structure in sports and explain why I agree or disagree with the issue. First up…college football overtime.


For about a zillion years, NCAA football games that were tied after the 4th quarter simply ended in a tie. But in 1996, we were introduced to overtime in college football. The overtime rules have changed a little since then, but it basically goes as follows:

Each team gets one possession from the opponent’s 25-yard-line. The rules are the same (4 downs to reach 10 yards, etc.), but there is no game clock. After each team has had a possession, the team with the highest score wins. If a tie still exists after a period of overtime, another overtime period is played. If a third overtime period is reached, any team scoring a touchdown is forced to attempt a 2-point conversation, as extra points are eliminated. This system (or one similar to it) had been used in high schools for a while before being adopted by the NCAA.

In my opinion, this is a very flawed system. I believe the reasons people might like this system are because it is exciting and it eliminates ties. These are fair points, but the system is wrong on a number of levels.

First of all, kickoffs and punts do not exist in NCAA overtime. The way I see it, you’re not really playing football if there are no kickoffs and punts. In every possession during the 60 minutes of game play, a team’s starting position can be traced back to a kickoff. Yes, turnovers and punts cause that to change, but a kickoff started it all. Punting and field position are extremely important during the first 60 minutes. However, in NCAA overtime, field position does not matter, as each team begins their drive already in field goal range. That isn’t football! Football involves kicking the ball and trying to have an advantageous field position. Why should a team be able to kick a field goal if they haven’t moved the ball down the field?

Starting at the opponent’s 25-yard line also creates a disadvantage for teams that rely on big passing plays. Let’s say a team has a quarterback who excels at throwing the deep ball along with a lightning fast receiver who is great at catching long passes. And let’s say the opponent is more of a power running team. The team that relies on big plays will not have an opportunity to play to their strengths, but the team that pounds the run will.

Another odd thing about NCAA overtime is that all stats and points count the same as they do during the first 60 minutes. So if a game goes to 2 overtime periods and a quarterback throws a touchdown in each one, that quarterback gets credit for those 2 touchdown passes, even though he didn’t have to move the team up the field to get that close to the end zone! How does that make sense? Similarly, the entire team gets those 6 or 7 or 8 points, even though they started out almost in the red zone. I’m not sure what the best solution would be for this aspect of NCAA overtime, but it’s just weird to see some of the stat lines from overtime games. A multiple-overtime game can also cause a team’s points per game average to be unfairly bloated.

If you ever watch a game go into 3 or 4 overtimes, it can be silly because the entire game often rests on the 2-point conversion plays. By the time a game reaches that point, almost every player on the field is really tired, and teams often score quickly. Those 2-point plays can sometimes come down to sheer luck or some fluky play.

For me, the solution is to switch to the NFL overtime system or something similar to it. A couple years ago, the NFL changed their overtime rules, and they now have what I consider to be a phenomenal system. The NFL used to have a pure sudden death system, where the first team to score wins. This would sometimes result in a team winning the coin toss and then going down and kicking a field goal, with the other team never getting a chance to possess the ball in overtime. But the current system has eliminated that possibility. Now, if the first team kicks a field goal on its first possession, the second team can kick a field goal of their own to tie the game, which would then send the game into sudden death at that point.

The NFL system seems confusing, but remember… the only time the game does not immediately end on a scoring play is if the first team kicks a field goal on its first possession. When that happens, the other team has a chance to match or beat that.

The NFL system is not the easiest in the world to explain, but it is actually very simple in practice. Most importantly, it keeps the essential parts of the game intact. You’re still kicking the ball and playing the field position game, just like you are throughout the other 60 minutes. And you have to earn your way across the field to get into scoring range.

If an NFL game is tied after the 15-minute overtime period, the game simply ends in a tie. Many fans hate the idea of ties in both college and pro football, but I think it’s pretty cool. in fact, with this new NFL system, we could very easily see more ties. If that happens, I hope they don’t change the system. The system works as is. You can’t expect football players to play more than 4 hours, so just call it a tie and move on.

I would like to see the NCAA scrap their system and go for one that brings special teams back into play and keeps football looking the same as it did for the first 60 minutes. What do you think?

Monday Morning Quarterback for August 19th 2013

This week’s Monday Morning Quarterback focuses on College Football and preseason rankings.  Does a preseason #1 ranking equal a National Championship?

Since the AP began polling in 1950, there have been 10*** schools who were ranked preseason #1 who have gone on to finish the season ranked number one.

In the BCS era, two teams (Florida St. in 1999 and USC in 2004), started and finished the season ranked #1.  ***It has to be said that USC’s title in 2004 was vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

This year, as expected, Alabama has been ranked #1 in AP Poll, and given their success over the last few years, they have a good chance to finish the year #1 once again.  Check out the article on the preseason AP top 25.


Can Bama make it 3 championships out of the last 4 years?  The last time Bama started and finished the season ranked #1 was in 1978 during the Bear Bryant era.  As my good friend Donney Jackson would say, “That’s why they play the games”!

That is it for this week.  Tune in Thursday night at 7pm for episode 1 of the season 2 of the Steve Black Show on



Spring is here!!!

Spring is HERE!!!  It is that time of the year in which most college football programs have concluded their Spring practices with their annual Spring Football Game.  According to published records, here are the top ten schools who had the most attended Spring game.


Auburn_Tigers31.  Auburn University:  83,401


alabama-logo2.  University of Alabama:  78,315


Tennessee_Volunteers53.  University of Tennessee:  61,706


Nebraska_Cornhuskers4.  University of Nebraska:  60,174


Arkansas-Razorback-Logo15.  University of Arkansas:  51,088


Kentucky_Wildcats26.  University of Kentucky:  50,831


texas-longhorns-logo7.  University of Texas:  46,000


TexasAMAggies8.  University of Texas A&M:  45,212


Georgia_Bulldogs19.  University of Georgia:  45,113


ohio-state-wp-210.  Ohio State University:  37,643**

**Game played in Cincinnati, Ohio

Debate: Should College Athletes get PAID???

bob stoops

Should college athletes get paid for what they do on the field and on the court for their schools?  Well on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, the age old topic of paying collegiate players surfaced again in an article on The Sporting News’ website.  In the article, University of Oklahoma’s football coach Bob Stoops had made comments in regards to players getting more than what they already receive in scholarships (Stoop later clarified those comments).

Coach Stoops, whether you agree with his comments or not, does make valid points on what players currently receive in scholarships.  I want to hear from you.  What are your comments on the topic of giving college athletes stipends as part of their scholarship?  Read the articles and feel free to leave your comments here


Favorite 30 for 30 Film

My favorite ESPN 30 for 30 Films is the Pony Excess.  It was the story of Southern Methodist University (SMU) of the early 1980’s.  Repeated offenses by the football program while on NCAA Probation lead to what we now know as the infamous “Death Penalty”, meaning no football at SMU for 2 years beginning in 1987.  Here we are now in 2013 and the program, under head coach Jim Jones, has finally come back to some respectability.  None the less, the SMU Football Program has never fully recovered from the Death Penalty after close to 26 years later.


What is your favorite 30 for 30 Film?  Please leave a reply.