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ACC keeps high-tech eye on officials' performance
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By Aaron Beard

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Jerry McGee has officiated enough college football games to know that he's probably missed a few calls. No matter how much he prepares to get it right on plays decided by inches and over in a split second, he knows it could happen again.

But should he miss a call, McGee won't have to wait long before he hears about it from the Atlantic Coast Conference and its high-tech officiating review team.

"We're like players and coaches," said McGee, whose day job is serving as president of Wingate University. "We want to be perfect on every single play and every single call. That has to be our goal and any tool that helps us get better is welcome."

The league's 12 teams are scattered across a 1,500-mile footprint, but an ACC Big Brother is watching almost every call - from false-start flags to no-calls on apparent holding penalties to rulings on whether acrobatic catches in the back of the end zone are touchdowns.

The work takes place in a room tucked away on the second floor of the ACC headquarters, filled with high-definition televisions, DVRs and computers. The league records televised games and charts penalties and controversial plays, then forwards them for evaluation as part of a midweek compilation that is eventually sent to officials and coaches.

The idea is simple: The league wants to correct mistakes and reinforce positives as it works to standardize calls and increase accountability.

The program has its fans among the league's 12 coaches. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said the ACC should do "anything we can do to make our officials the best in the country." Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the work fosters trust between coaches and officials.

"I think we have a caring group, a group of guys that want to get it right," Grobe said. "They're just like coaches: they make mistakes and they're trying to learn from mistakes each week."

In past years, the ACC looked at footage it had on videotape or whatever league coaches submitted for review or clarification. But the league, as it renovated its offices, invested in technology aimed at providing faster feedback after each week's games.