DALLAS — In-game highlights will be played during TV timeouts during Big 12 games beginning this season in an effort to curb dwindling attendance numbers.
Conference ommissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledged how easy it can be for fans to enjoy the games from the comfort of their own homes rather than buy an expensive ticket, wait in lines to use the bathroom and at concession stands and pay for parking going to the game.
“College football has experienced declines in overall attendance the last four or five years, and I think bringing highlights in will take into account and help one of the things that really is getting to be a challenge for us,” Bowlsby said. “People have a 60-inch television and they can have their mobile device with full Wi-fi in their lpa, no lines at the restroom, no charge for concessions, they can have a cold beer when they want to… We think it will greatly enhance the in-stadium environment.”
Big 12 to use chips in shoulder pads
Big 12 players, along with players from the SEC and the Pac-12, will have RF chips planted in their shoulder pads starting this season. This will allow their movements to be tracked and the velocity of their collisions to be measured.
“We’re not sure what we will do with the technology,” Bowlsby said. “But we think it’s a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated. It ought to be interesting to see how it evolves.”
This comes on the heels of the implementation of a rule in college football that mandates the ejection of any player targeting another player’s helmet, which also begins this year, and the launch of a concussion research and prevention program by the Big 12 as part of a partnership with USA Football.
“Player safety is a very important element of what we’re doing,” Bowlsby said. “The commissioners collectively took the initiative and sent directive to the rules committee that we wanted progress made on both concussive head injuries and the cumulative effect of repetitive blows to the head.”
Big 12 to experiment with eighth official
Also among the changes this upcoming season is the use of an eighth official during Big 12 games, a move meant to better manage the faster up-tempo offenses being utilized more and more by the teams in the pass-happy conference.
This official will stand on the same side of the ball as the offense and be responsible for spotting the ball, which was previously something the umpire did. The Big 12 will be the only conference with officials this season.
“This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything,” Bowlsby said. “We have experimented with it in the spring. We’ve even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful.”
There have been critics, most notably Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, of up-tempo offenses because of the perceived increase of defensive players being injured. But the Big 12 won’t slow down any time soon.
“They can’t play any faster,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “I was one of the guys that voted for having the eighth official because that guy’s going to be the spot — that allows your umpire and referee not to worry about that… if anything, I think it gets back to helping the defense a little bit more because now you have a little — you have one more set of eyes that are watching everything.”