Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 will all electronically monitor players in 2013

Michigan Wolverines running back Vincent Smith (2) reacts on the field after he was tackled by South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (not pictured) and forced a fumble during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Michigan Wolverines 33-28. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

We may be entering the next great frontier in the world of sports. According to, three of college football’s five major conferences will be electronically monitoring players’ speeds and movements beginning with the 2013 season.

The applications of such monitoring, of course, could change the way we perceive the how the game is played. The SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 will all be trying out the new technology for the very first time, in part to find out if precisely tracking player movement and speed can help with player safety in the long run.

That said, how the new tools and resulting data will be used is still yet to be determined. SEC football officiating coordinator Steve Shaw only confirmed that the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved the experiment on Tuesday. Thus, there is still a lot of tinkering that needs to be done, but Shaw, for one, is excited for the possibilities.

“I think it really is more for tracking how fast a player is moving and the direction of his movements so you have an electronic signature of all of that,” Shaw said. “Then what you do with that, we have to figure that out. You could track speed before a collision and that sort of thing. To be honest, I’m not sure what all of the applications are. But it has potential benefit in player safety, so I think it’s worth taking an initial step to see what the technology does.”

As young as the technology is, as well as the plan for its implementation, there is no word as to how many players will be outfitted with the data-collection devices.

What is exciting is simply the chance to see the game from an entirely new perspective.

“There’s not a final plan out there,” he said. “The technology is emerging. It’s not fully developed. There’s promise in it and we really need to look at and see if it has benefits to the game. That’s as far as we are right now.

Will coaches eventually use this data in order to precisely figure out how to most efficiently use their players? If it shows that every single player, no matter what, shows some percentage decrease in speed and movement after playing two straight plays, will we see massive third-down substitutions?

Will future NFL contracts be haggled over based not on 1,000-yard seasons, but rather on the minute details registered on any given player’s personal chip?

Sabermetricians may just have themselves a field day counting out the number of steps every player at every single position took in a season to figure out who worked the hardest.

There are a million more possibilities. Steve Sabol pioneered NFL Films — could this become the next iteration in bringing the fan experience closer to the game itself?

Could players be monitored to actually help keep them safe? Or might the NCAA and the NFL use this technology for commercial profit, like selling it to EA and Madden to help make the most realistic video game imaginable?

Again, the possibilities are endless.

So, when you are watching football come fall, and you’ve got a bowl of chips in your lap and a PBR in your hand, just remember, some of the players you are watching are playing with chips on their shoulders — literally.

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