The shot was no good.
The wrong team advanced.
Let’s be clear about that.
By now, you’ve probably seen the “buzzer-beating” shot that got Thornton Academy past Bonny Eagle in the Boys AA South Semifinals. It’s been all over social media and was on ESPN and has been viewed millions of times. But the shot was late. It was late in real time and late in slow motion.
The officials blew the call.
And this isn’t the first time. It was just three years ago that Dexter advanced to the state title game on a missed call, but at least that one was closer. We actually needed replay for that one.
With two high-profile officiating errors leading to the wrong team advancing in such a short time frame, it naturally begs the question, why can’t we use replay?
Well, the short answer is, “because, rules.” But also, we totally can.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) recently adopted a rule where states can use replay for game-winning shots in championship series, which is exactly what this is.
So what’s the issue? Quite simply, the NFHS’ rule isn’t a national rule. It’s a rule the states can enact. A bunch have. Maine hasn’t. Or, to be more accurate, the member schools of the Maine Principals’ Association haven’t approved it.
So what’s the hold up? Clearly it’s money, right?
Nope. I spoke to Dan Shepardson, the representative for District 1 in the NFHS Basketball Rules Committee, who confirmed that we could use replay as it currently exists in the WHOU broadcasts. There’s no need for multiple angles or 4K cameras shooting at a high frame rate or anything else. All we need is the ability to replay the footage courtside, ideally in slow motion.
WHOU already has this capability, as does Maine Public, who will be doing the state championship games this weekend. The NFHS Network does not, which is just another in a long list of reasons to send them packing. The technology is already in place and will only improve with time.
All we need is for the schools to approve it.
Had they approved it, the officials could have walked over to the replay monitor, watched the footage once or twice, and Bonny Eagle would have advanced to the regional finals in an epic upset. It would have taken maybe 45 seconds. Instead, Thornton Academy went on to play South Portland, got punished by the Basketball Gods, and lost by double-digits.
All we’ve got to do is vote for it. It’s as easy as flipping a switch.
So why haven’t they? Well, it hasn’t come up for a vote.
We just have to come up with a set of guidelines for the schools to vote on. When I talked to MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham on Feb. 25, he said the MPA hadn’t explored what adding replay would involve. But when we spoke a couple of days later about classification, it sounded like that plan might come from hockey, which already has replay and has already come up with a working system. So it sounds like this is potentially in the works, which is encouraging.
It’s also worth noting that the NFHS’ rules give states a wide latitude of how they can do replay for this one specific situation (and only this one specific situation). So much latitude that if we were to decide we wanted to have grandmothers from Jonesport-Beals charging down from the bleachers with their camcorders, we could do that. I can’t imagine anyone would vote for that, but it would sure be fun.
There’s virtually no downside to this. The technology is in place. We owe it to the kids from Bonny Eagle who were denied an upset for the ages and we owe it to the Thornton Academy kids who had to play a game where the opposing student section kept chanting “You Don’t Belong Here!” And we owe it to the next team robbed of a tourney win, because it could easily be yours.