Matt Sumstine is a prominent high school football official in Hawaii who also runs a training website that is used by people across the nation, so if you want to know the goings-on in the realm of those who wear the black and white stripes, he’s the one to call.
As a matter of fact, Sumstine, who coordinates officials for the high school state tournament and has loads of experience at the collegiate level, will be doing his job this week at the Jr. Prep Sports Paradise Classic at Aloha Stadium, a series of 10 youth and high school all-star games consisting of teams from Hawaii, American Samoa, California and Las Vegas on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
One of Sumstine’s pet endeavors is the instant replay that will be used for all Paradise Classic games. This is the third year instant replay will be used at the event to help officials at the high school level, and this year, it is believed to be the first time instant replay will be used for youth games anywhere.
Sumstine believes wholeheartedly in instant replay and says that sentiment is the norm among officials.
He talked about what he termed “the real benefit of replay:”
“There’s just an unavoidable resentment between the fan base and officials,” he said Monday. “That’s how it is. We all know it. If there is a presumed incorrect call, fans will be mad at the officials. If a call is proven correct, they are off the officials. If a call gets corrected, somebody looked at it and made sure it was right and everybody is happy. (For officials), it’s like a get out of jail free card.”
There was almost universal reticence by officials toward instant replay when it was first used at the collegiate level in 2004, according to Sumstine.
“Officials didn’t want to be proven wrong,” he said. “But after they found out what the reaction was, they were thinking, ‘This is pretty good stuff. We’re getting it right.’ An immediate switch was thrown.”
For three years, Sumstine requested that the HHSAA use instant replay for the Hawaii state tournament, but was denied. He is waiting to hear back about his request to the HHSAA to use it for the 2018 season.
“It was used in a state tournament in Minnesota on a limited basis,” he said. “The National Federation of High School Associations, prohibits the use of instant replay. The way Minnesota got around it was they filed for a rule experiment and asked for an exception. That is what the HHSAA would have to do.
“Coaches love it, players love it, people who watch it on TV love it.”
According to Sumstine, it has not been expensive.
“It’s very cost effective,” he added. “All you need are a couple of TVs and a TIVO that can rewind the shots. We have access to the stadium jumbotron and they have in-house video with three or four cameras. And we bought two wide-screen TVs for $500.”
Two officials work in the replay booth and are in communication with the on-field officials. One in the booth is watching the various clips that are being sent to him streaming on one TV. He sends the clips to the other official, who has the power to fast-forward and rewind and is the one who makes the final call.
In the two previous years of instant replay at the Paradise Classic, only two challenges were made by coaches and both times the challenges were successful, with the call being overturned, according to Sumstine.
“We got it correct,” he said. “Reset and everybody was happy.”
Sumstine credited Robert Faleafine of Jr. Prep Sports for opening the door to the instant replay experiment.
In addition, a few years ago, Faleafine and his organization bought customized broadcast devices/radios (about $700) for all of the officials refereeing the JPS games for improved communication. Now, all high school officials in Hawaii have them.
“Robert is one of those cutting edge football guys,” Sumstine said. “He will do anything he can to promote opportunities for players, coaches and officials.”
In some of Sumstine’s training videos on refereeclinic.com, those communication devices the officials used were noticeable to many viewers around the nation who called Sumstine and asked, “Where did you get those radios?”
Sumstine is thrilled that the head of Mountain West Conference officials will be here this week at the Paradise Classic to obvserve the performances of local officials. In addition, three MWC officials will be here to work with Hawaii high school officials in full game environments.
“Instant replay … radios … MWC officials here to guide local officials … MWC officials supervisor observing the performance of local officials … a website with training videos … it’s all about the communication and the improvement of such — so that when you watch a game, you don’t notice the officials very much, and for them, that’s the best feeling of all,” he said.