"If a picture is worth a thousand words …"


A young high school football defensive end looks bewildered, confused by his overlapping game assignments. His coach calls for a sideline conference as the opposing offensive team has marched down to his eight-yard line, preparing to score the go-ahead touchdown. Using his iPad, the coach shows an instant replay of the situation causing the confusion. He clarifies the young defensive end’s assignment and play resumes. The young defensive end forces a fumble and recovers the ball for his team, preventing the touchdown. And so my daydream fantasy ends. No; we didn’t have iPads, instant replay, or such an enlightened coach to remove my confusion back on that night in 1970. That pass was completed, and it haunts me to this day. ? #1

But what if we could have had that kind of technology?

Soon we will know as the 2015 football season prepares to kick-off with iPads and Tablet PCs permitted on the sidelines for use by coaches.

NFHS Rule The new ruling permits coaches to communicate to players when: #2
    • Both coach and players are on the same sideline—completely off the field.
    • Players are on the field between the sideline and the 9-yard marker
    • The coach calls for a conference with players inside the 9-yard marker. Only the coach can use and view the device.
    • At no point is the coach permitted to show the iPad screen to a player on the field during live play.

Football iPads

(insightreplay.com, article by Graham Clarke, Dec.1, 2014)

It’s not just iPads and tablet PC’s being used on the sidelines. Mt. Whitney, CA high school coach Mike Danielson hooked up a 55-inch flat screen TV to an iPad. Coach Danielson intends to use the TV on the sideline in games to show young players what they are doing wrong immediately after making a mistake. He can then immediately relay the correct procedure to the player and remove the typical “Who, ME?” reply from the guilty player coming off the field. “The Big Eye in the Sky Doesn’t Lie” is Coach Danielson’s new credo.

“Creating a better future requires creativity in the present.” ― Matthew Goldfinger

To high school football powerhouse programs, technology is the present. For those schools, adding sideline iPads is not an innovation, it is the next logical step in their technological evolution. Chris Latrella is the video coordinator of Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey (Record: 72-47; 9 Playoff appearances with four championship wins).

Chris heads up a video operations department for the football program using four student assistants. Together they video record every practice and every game for the team, and then spend countless hours of editing, classifying, and packaging the video clips into video databases. The databases are then available for coaches and players to study and analyze. To Chris Latrella and his staff, the sideline iPads add to their ever-expanding array of tools to ensure that Paramus Catholic remains the force it is in its league.

“With this, the Rich just got Richer” – Jere Adcock, Decatur High School Football Coach #3

Sour grapes? Or does Coach Adcock have a point? Consider this: that Mt. Whitney iPad and 55-inch sideline TV happened because of a $30,000 fund-raising campaign. It was championed by two Mt. Whitney alums who just happened to be well-known former NFL players. Could most high schools count on that type of star power to drive a fund-raising program? Probably not. The advantage goes to the perennial powerhouses.

While $30,000 might seem like a large amount of money, also consider what is required to make an iPad program work for a high school football team.

Components of an iPad-Tablet PC Sideline Program #4
    • Camera operators
    • Video editors
    • Wireless Network Administrator
Base Components
    • Wireless Network Server and router
    • Powerful Desktop Computer for Video Capture and Editing
    • Specialized video editing software for capture, editing and archiving video
    • Powerful Digital Storage for archived video
    • Device Insurance and Extended Warranty Protection for all of the equipment*
On-Field Devices
    • Cameras and weather protection
    • iPads or Tablet PC’s and weather protection for both sideline and press box users
    • Additional large screen monitors for display/playback
    • Advanced headsets to permit standard phone line and iPad audio

Now then, take the number of On-Field...

Devices and multiply that times two. That is because high school athletic associations have a tendency to require the home team to provide the same sideline gear it uses to the visiting school. In the past, that was limited to headsets and field phones. Will actual equipment like the case of the headsets and phones be made mandatory or will access to the wireless network be all that is required, shifting the burden of gearing up on the visiting school. To that remaining question, Austin Coach Jeremy Perkins remarked: “From what I’ve seen, this is basically no-holds barred, and I’m worried that it could hurt the integrity of the game.” #3. Perhaps one more ingredient will be added to the age-old sports condition known as “homecookin”.

But Coach Jeremy Perkins takes the unfair advantage issue of technical “haves” versus “have-nots” to another level: good, old-fashioned spying. “What’s to stop teams from filming coaches across the sideline, and by halftime-they’ve got your (coach to on-field players) signals?” #3 If that sounds far-fetched, please reference the 2007 New England Patriots cheating scandal known as “SpyGate”#5 in which that professional football team did what Coach Perkins described. (The Patriots were later fined for their use of spy videos).

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” (#6) But at Whose Expense? Old Battles Re-fought.

Those coaches are not the only school officials under-joyed at the possibility of iPads being used on the sidelines. At famed El Paso Independent School District in 2012, the administration had to raid its reserve fund to the tune of $10 million dollars and cut 172 teaching positions to stay financially afloat.That same year, the district purchased a $10,000 software license for "HUDLE Highlights", used to create football game highlights. “It was determined that this is (a) valuable and necessary product for our (football) programs” stated Vanessa Monsivais, administrator of the program for the school district #8. Many teachers complained that they had paid for pencils and paper for students out of their own pockets while there was money for football software.

Ms. Monsivais may well have a valid point. Many schools adhere to the policy that football should pay for itself and remain separate and distinct from other school activities and budgets. Robert Freeman, band director at West Monroe High, summed up that position: “Our football team is the only revenue generator—it’s sustaining the other sports” #8. And the HUDL Highlights application helps to feed that revenue generator by providing fund-raising ammunition for the football team. It also serves as a recruiting tool to attract college recruiter attention to the school’s standout players. Big school scholarships, in turn, drive the best local athletes to that high school to get their crack at stardom and college scholarship opportunities.

Angela Lumpkin, the chairperson of the sports management department at Texas Tech University, conceded this about the iPad on the Sidelines discussion: “It becomes all about winning. How can I get an advantage of my opponent?”#8

So as it was with the sideline chalkboard, so it shall be with the sideline iPad.

Tell us what you think about it?

Footnotes and credits:
#1 Author Jan Miller
#2 Graham Clarke, Dec 1, 2014, http://insightreplay.com/nfhs-football-rule-1-6-1-2-explained
#3 Justin Graves, Decatur Daily Jul 30, 2013
#4 Daryl Sessions, 2013, Securedge Networks securedgenet
#5 Gary Buiso, October 12, 2014, http://nypost.com/
#6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winning_isn%27t_everything;_it%27s_the_only_thing
#7 HUDL-Highlights http://www.hudl.com/highlights
#8 Article by NBC News, Oct 5, 2014

Angela Lumpkin, chairperson of the sports management department at Texas Tech University conceded this about the iPad on the Sidelines discussion: “It becomes all about winning. How can I get an advantage of my opponent?”

UCLA Football Coach Henry “Red” Sanders, 1950