# A Possible to prove mathematically that the football spot was bad?

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
Summary
In the 2016 Michigan vs Ohio State Football Game, the referee spotted the ball after 4th down with seconds to go in the game based on what appeared to be a "bad spot." If not for this, Michigan would have won the game. On the next play, Ohio State scored a touchdown.
In the 2016 Michigan vs Ohio State Football Game, the referee spotted the ball after 4th down with seconds to go in the game with what appeared to be a "bad spot." If not for this, Michigan would have won the game. On the next play, Ohio State scored a touchdown that won the game.

Would it be possible that photographic evidence exists to prove mathematically that the spot was bad? How much evidence would be required (such as camera angles, locations, etc.) to resolve this issue? Realistically, what would be the minimum amount of evidence required? Any estimate of the number of man-hours and other resources that would be entailed in seriously researching this?

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#### Andy Resnick

Now, I have to disclose that my family is all OSU but my work colleagues are UM. Personally, I'm not into NCAA but care deeply about the Browns- I know from first-hand experience how frustrating 'bad' calls are.

Yes, it's possible to 'prove' where the ball should be spotted based on images- and there are enough cameras available already. It's also possible to prove, for example, when pass interference occurs based on images (ahem....). But the use of instant replay to 'correct' has to be balanced against the harm caused by constant interruptions of play, and there's a reason why some calls are not reviewable. I wonder if strenuous calls for more and more use of instant replay are in fact a projection of wishing for removal of all uncertainty in life.

#### Comeback City

Football games (or any sport) are not decided by one play... they're decided by the entirety of the game. It would waste far too much time to use instant replay on every single play, considering games already last so long. One bad call--- no matter how awful or momentum-changing--- will not decide a game.

But, yes, the photographic evidence certainly exists to place the ball accurately.

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
Football games (or any sport) are not decided by one play... they're decided by the entirety of the game. It would waste far too much time to use instant replay on every single play, considering games already last so long. One bad call--- no matter how awful or momentum-changing--- will not decide a game.

But, yes, the photographic evidence certainly exists to place the ball accurately.
That's what I wanted to know.

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
Why do you think it is that no one at Michigan's departments of Physics or Engineering has pursued this? Is it just that no one has thought of doing it? I would think that the Athletic department would be eager to fund a study like this.

#### Comeback City

@Chestermiller
To clarify, are you asking why they haven't looked into more efficient ways to review? Or just why they haven't looked into this one specific play in the football game?

#### russ_watters

Mentor
I would assume that the football departments at major universities have every camera angle for every recent game in an archive. And the camera angles tend to be fixed. I would think if so inclined it would be easy to prove.

#### sophiecentaur

Gold Member
In many ways, the ideal thing wold be to have some 'intelligence' in the ball itself so that it could know its velocity and position at all times. Visual sighting is affected by the presence of bodies all over the vital areas of activity. A local hyperbolic positioning system using a suitable wavelength ( say 0.1m) could give all the information needed.
The problem would be (as it is with tennis, rugby and football) that only the higher league clubs could afford to run that sort of system.
Of course, the practice of arguing with and threatening match officials should be dealt with before any technical help that the Ref could use.
"Arguing with the ref??? Back ten metres" sorts it out easily.

#### fresh_42

Mentor
2018 Award
What is a bad spot? And was it 4th and inches or 4th and long?

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
What is a bad spot? And was it 4th and inches or 4th and long?
In this case, it was first down by an inch.

#### jbriggs444

Homework Helper
The important thing in a game, or, for that matter, in a court of law, is not that the decision is correct.

The important thing is that the decision is made and accepted. The acceptance part is what motivates at least an appearance of fairness and correctness.

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
In this case, it was first down by an inch.
They use camera technology now a lot in sports Tennis footy (soccer) rugby and cricket.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/video-referee-system-make-debut-14126254

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=12164339

I think the reluctance in introducing them was a worry about how it would affect the flow of the game.

I think they are great, adds another dimension and tension while the electronic ref is being "consulted"

In cricket you only have so many times you can challenge the human ref with the camera ref, say for LBW.

The camera and software track the trajectory of the ball to see if it would have hit the stumps or not on the replay.

Not easy as swing spin and air density all have to be factored in as well as velocity and where the ball pitches.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
In this case, it was first down by an inch.
One inch is tough, but not impossible precision with video. There was one a year or two ago where the ref slipped an index card between the ball and the pole to tell.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
Football games (or any sport) are not decided by one play... they're decided by the entirety of the game.
Coaches say this a lot and while it seems true in hindsight and at a high level, IMO it isn't true in the progression of the game. The reason is that the strategy changes as the game progresses because the risk/reward calculus depends on the current score and time remaining to correct an old or new mistake. This is true to a great extent in most games/sports, but seems to be more true in American football than in most because of how easy it is for one big play to make a big difference in a close game. It also creates substantial opportunities for the team behind to come back and win, since the team ahead often adopts a very low risk/low reward strategy that backfires against the high risk/high reward strategy of the team behind.

That said, it is difficult to evaluate the game-altering ability of an early play due to how much of the game can be changed by one changed play.
It would waste far too much time to use instant replay on every single play, considering games already last so long. One bad call--- no matter how awful or momentum-changing--- will not decide a game.
It's only the close plays that need to be challenged, but as @sophiecentaur said, a move to electronic officiating would take care of both the accuracy and time issues.

#### Comeback City

@russ_watters
Obviously, plays towards the end of the game have a heavy influence on the outcome of a game. But how did they get to that close score at the end of the game? How did they get to that 4th down on the goal line with 3 seconds left? Why not just play a 5-minute game so every play is a big play? The "big plays" you speak of are only "big" because they're closer to the end, and thus get more attention from everyone invested. From playing and watching many sports, I can tell you that many games are decided right at the beginning. A few quick goals in a soccer game can set up for the possibility of a comeback at the end, but that comeback doesn't happen too often.

#### sophiecentaur

Gold Member
Sport is not Science and people behave irrationally. Worse still is the way that commentators describe games in terms of logic.
Then there’s “what a great goal that would have been”

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
Guys,

My goal was purely scientific and was not focused either on the pros and cons of instant replays, officiating, or announcing a game. It was much more primordial than that. I wanted to find out if it would be possible to ruin the "win" for hated rival Ohio State fans by "proving" scientifically that the spot was bad and that they really "lost the game." This is part of the never-ending feud between Michigan and "Duh" Ohio State University.

Chet

#### gmax137

"Proving" the actual location of the ball at the end of the fourth down doesn't really help, unless you also "prove" that the ball was spotted correctly at the start of the play (that is, the third down spot wasn't incorrect). And so on, with the second and first downs. Maybe the entire series of downs was off by an inch either way.

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
"Proving" the actual location of the ball at the end of the fourth down doesn't really help, unless you also "prove" that the ball was spotted correctly at the start of the play (that is, the third down spot wasn't incorrect). And so on, with the second and first downs. Maybe the entire series of downs was off by an inch either way.
You're talking mathematics and I'm talking hatred of Ohio State. Get the picture? I don't care if it is exactly mathematically correct as long as it ruins things for them.

#### gmax137

I don't care if it is exactly mathematically correct as long as it ruins things for them.
Got it!

#### bucket

Unfortunately, recent advances in sports broadcasting such as improved camera angles and high definition video have made it possible to very accurately measure the speed of a runner or thrown ball. You see this all the time as the announcers discuss how quickly a ball leaves the quarterbacks hand or how fast a running back cuts to avoid a tackle. As we all know by now, the more precise information we have about the balls velocity, the more uncertain we are forced to be about the balls position. So sadly, we will soon never be able to disprove any bad spots.

Homework Helper

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
I'm still dissatisfied with the answers I've gotten to my question. So let me be a little more precise with my problem statement:

How would a team of scientists apply present-day technology to the existing video evidence, both official and unofficial (the latter from available cell phones and other video devices in the stands) to ascertain as closely as possible the 3D geometric location of the leading edge of the football at the moment that J.T. Barrett's knee (or other body part acceptable for establishing the end of the play) first touched the ground? What precision could be expected?

#### Nik_2213

UK Soccer introduced 'goal line technology' for the Premier League and some other competitions, but its coverage is 'goal mouth only'. However, when there's been a mid-field incident, eg leading to a yellow or red card and possible 'totting up' penalties such as multi-match bans, a player may appeal after the match based on multi-angle media footage. Of course, when ref says 'GO', the player had better go quietly...

Admittedly, there is a human element. Some soccer players have a reputation for being very, very easy to trip. Deliberately 'diving' when tackled is a serious offence, but hard to prove during the game. When one such player 'goes down' easily, perhaps too easily, the tackler is more likely than not to receive the benefit of the doubt...

#### Chestermiller

Mentor
UK Soccer introduced 'goal line technology' for the Premier League and some other competitions, but its coverage is 'goal mouth only'. However, when there's been a mid-field incident, eg leading to a yellow or red card and possible 'totting up' penalties such as multi-match bans, a player may appeal after the match based on multi-angle media footage. Of course, when ref says 'GO', the player had better go quietly...

Admittedly, there is a human element. Some soccer players have a reputation for being very, very easy to trip. Deliberately 'diving' when tackled is a serious offence, but hard to prove during the game. When one such player 'goes down' easily, perhaps too easily, the tackler is more likely than not to receive the benefit of the doubt...
You do realize we are talking about American football here, not soccer, right?

"Possible to prove mathematically that the football spot was bad?"

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