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Should there be replay review in college lacrosse? John Tillman thinks so

A controversial call in last weekend’s Maryland-Virginia game has reignited the debate.

Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

The use of replay review across various professional and collegiate sports has, in most cases, proven to be an asset in making sure officials make correct calls. The NFL and Pete Rozelle were the pioneers of its implementation in 1986, with the NBA and college football and basketball eventually following suit in the early 2000s. Instant replay has since become a staple in each of those leagues, and is still extending its reach to other sports such as MLB and the NHL over the last few years.

Despite its relative consistency in helping referees see all parts of the field, it has yet to be fully applied in college lacrosse. As of now, video replay in college lacrosse is limited to:

  1. To correct the game clock when there is a malfunction or timing error
  2. To review the release of a shot at the end of a period in relation to the expiration of time
  3. To review if a shot at the end of a period was deflected off of a defensive or offensive player before it entered the goal

But the NCAA has yet to add a rule to review any scoring play, except for one odd incident in 2017 in which a goal was reviewed in a Final Four game between Ohio State and Towson. Such a rule could have made a difference in Maryland’s NCAA quarterfinal game, where a shot by Virginia’s Michael Kraus appeared to ricochet off the crossbar, but was ruled a goal on the field by the officials.

The goal by Kraus tied the game at 12 with 1:14 left, ultimately sending it to overtime where Virginia would end up winning and advancing. But the decision sparked a discourse among the lacrosse community as to whether or not plays such as this should be reviewable.

“Whether it hurts you or helps you, it’s really about getting the play right,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said following the loss on Saturday. “A stage this big, you’re gonna have TV anyway, and if you’re gonna have the ability to do it, why not?”

On the other side of the field, Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany doesn’t see the need for replay reviews in Division I lacrosse, putting his trust in the referees to get the call right on the field.

“I do not enjoy instant replay, and anyone who knows me has heard me say that for a couple years,” Tiffany said. “Certainly as a coach, I can see that you wanna get it right and get the call right, but I’m just not a proponent, I never have been.”

With the way that college lacrosse is currently constructed, teams are at the mercy of the referees when it comes to circumstances like these. Being in that position, there’s not much else the players or coaches can do other than accept the ruling on the field.

“It’s kind of out of our control. You can only control the controllables,” Terps sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman said. “At the end of the day, the refs are out there for a reason: they’re good at their jobs.”

Whether this call by the officials is the necessary impetus for considerations toward allowing instant replay, challenges, etc. remains to be seen ... for now. The NCAA showed its willingness to make significant changes to how games are played with the new 80-second shot clock, so more progressive adjustments to improve the game going forward certainly aren’t out of the question.