Dean Blandino, former senior vice president of officiating for the NFL, was named national director of instant replay for college football, confirming a Football Zebras report last month. This position was created by College Football Officiating in 2016, and Blandino will be replacing the first person to hold the position, Jim Blackwood. (CFO is a consortium of conference leaders, and is technically independent of the NCAA.)
In a news release from the NCAA, Mid-American Conference commissioner and CFO chairman of the board Jon Steibrecher said, “Dean emerged as the best candidate from a talented group of people interested in helping shape the future of instant replay in college football. His expertise and skills will help guide this important aspect of officiating.”
“I’m extremely excited to join the CFO and NCAA in this role,” Blandino said in the news release. “I’ve spent much of my career in the replay space and look forward to continuing to improve our processes and programming with the ultimate goal of efficient — and correct — outcomes.”
In an unusual twist, Blandino will hold the position for 3½ months, and then go into a holding pattern.
Because of his primary work as a rules analyst for Fox Sports college and NFL broadcasts, Blandino will not be active in his role during the season. Effective August 31, Blandino will end his active involvement and resume his CFO duties in January after the conclusion of the bowl season. A source has told Football Zebras that ESPN had objections to a broadcast competitor having one of their employees that high in the officiating heirarchy. That notwithstanding, any commentary that Blandino makes on the network or in social media that has replay involvement has the imprimatur of the national replay director; that aspect is inseparable from a journalistic standpoint.
There were at least four candidates for this position, including NFL referee Terry McAulay, who recently had to give up his job with the American Athletic Conference as their supervisor, when the conference formed an officiating tandem with the Atlantic Coast Conference starting next season. However, one source said the officiating organization “did not want anybody in that position with current ties to the NFL.”
In its bid to avoid current NFL personnel overseeing college replay — presumably to keep the college operations in a primary position over the pros — CFO made a very curious move to have no one overseeing replay during the season.
Traditionally, the position under Blackwood did not have a centralized, in-game responsibility, rather that was left to the conferences, either individually or as a coalition. This would continue under Blandino, however the position would essentially be vacant during the football season. If there is a matter of interpretation during the season, the national director would be the go-to person; this would appear to now be handled by the conferences themselves and Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of officials.
Redding said in the NCAA press release that Blandino “has a wealth of experience with instant replay, and his gift for teaching will add immensely to our training of replay officials. Dean’s deep knowledge base will enable us to be very strategic moving forward.”
During the offseason, Blandino will work with both the national and conference officiating coordinators to focus attention on replay consistency and training. Blandino was an NFL replay official and managed the replay operations from 2003-09. He left the NFL and created a consultancy business, Under the Hood, training and evaluating replay officials during its nascent years in the college game. He left that business after three years and returned to the NFL in 2013 as the head of officiating. As preparation was underway during the 2017 offseason, Blandino left the NFL and signed on with Fox Sports.
Blandino has also worked with Big Ten coordinator of officials and former NFL referee Bill Carollo on replay evaluation, and there is no word if that will continue during the season. Carollo, who coordinates for a cluster of other conferences and is the chair of the national replay committee, was also on the search committee for the national replay director vacancy. Other members of the search committee were Redding, Karl Benson (Sun Belt Conference commissioner), Bob Bowlsby (Big 12 Conference commissioner), Oliver Luck (an NCAA executive), and Patty Viverita (Missouri Valley Conference senior associate commissioner). Steinbrecher, the MAC commissioner, was an ex-officio member of the search committee. Of note, the Missouri Valley Conference and the MAC officials are also supervised by Carollo.
Blandino has already headed a college replay clinic, although his formal ascension into the national director role is today.
Cam Filipe contributed to this report.