College Football Drone Warfare
By Steve Pipps
UCLA has made a step in the right direction. Last week, Bruins director of video operations Ken Norris unveiled a drone that helps give coaches previously unobtainable lines of sight. The drone is literally the eye in the sky. It allows coaches to view the line of scrimmage from directly above, which according to the LA Times, “let coaches observe little things, such as a lineman's footwork and hand placement.”
College football is finally taking a page out of corporate handbooks. First, Amazon toys with the idea of drone delivery. Netflix one-ups them and puts the idea into motion. College football might as well start advertising itself as "The Sport of the Future," with humble UCLA leading the charge.
The use of drones hasn’t taken hold across the FBS quite yet. So, let's take a step into the future and imagine what some of the headlines out of the Big 12 would be if all 10 teams implemented the use of drones.
It started off innocently enough with Texas Tech painting the drone Tech colors. It was a team building activity, something head coach Kliff Kingsbury has done in the past. Team pride. I love it. If you are going to have a drone flying overhead, it darn well better be a Red Raider through and through.
The problem is, and yes there is one major problem, one man cannot be trusted with such power. Lest we forget Uncle Ben's famous line, "with great power comes great responsibility." Spidey apparently forgot his responsibilities and let "Spiderman 3" be released to the public. We all stopped trusting him after that.
Tech officials thought it might be a good idea to purchase one drone per player. At a paltry $1,000, the program could more than afford it. Their reasoning was to always have video evidence that might help any investigation into a player.
The first day, it caught Nigel Bethel II hitting a fellow Texas Tech player during an altercation. Had he known about the drone, he might have reconsidered his actions. He was promptly dismissed from the team.
Both sides have apologized for their actions and both athletes face the same penalty. Apparently at Texas Tech, an apology is good enough to offer a second chance.
Meanwhile, Burnt Orange Nation bought itself a few drones as well. So far, only one drone has “gone astray.” Manned by a disgruntled linebacker, it followed a fellow player to dinner, a dinner the disgruntled linebacker thought was with his girlfriend. It turned out it was just with an NFL agent who informed the world about the meeting via Twitter anyway. As we know, Twitter is already judge, jury and executioner for cases like this, but it was nice to have video evidence of the infraction anyway.
It’s too bad we didn't have drones when Les Miles was the Cowboys head coach. Even one drone could have helped prove the falsity of the rampant scandals that were allegedly happening under his watchful eye. The SEC has yet to adopt drones. Luckily, we have plenty of cameras at SEC Media Days to catch Les being Les.
The allegations are still under investigation, but Oklahoma's recently purchased drone was, according to eyewitnesses, shot down just inside the city limits of Stillwater. There is no word as to why the drone was so far outside of its jurisdiction or how Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy will handle this, but let's hope it’s on the field. Bedlam can always use the added intrigue.
Charlie Weis has avoided the questioning surrounding the use of his drone. One source came out alleging that the real reason Jake Heaps transferred was due to poor handling of the drone. The drone fell on Heaps' head during a scrimmage. Weis merely told him to rub some dirt on it. Heaps was distressed that he was not appropriately tested for a concussion and decided to transfer to Miami.
I hate to only bring up the bad things because Iowa State, TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State have had no problems after implementing drones. Paul Rhoads has actually seen marked improvements in his front line on both offense and defense. Iowa State has become the favorite to win the Big 12 this season and represent the conference in the inaugural playoffs.
West Virginia has been able to work on its front line as well. The Mountaineers can now reportedly create “huge holes” for their deep running back roster. Despite this being against their own defense, they hope it translates well during their first game against opponent Alabama.
Last but not least, Baylor is facing sanctions by the NCAA after its drone — which was promptly decorated with fur and googly eyes and adopted as the team mascot — not only caught one egregious offense, but another adulterous one. A donor, whose name has not yet been released, was caught slipping a stack of money to a no-name wide receiver. The donor was quoted as saying, "I actually thought that was Bryce Petty, the quarterback. I don't follow the team, I just throw my money at them.”
The adulterous offense involved an assistant coach and another coach’s wife. Let's just say the drone’s camera is definitely helping coaches study hand placement.
Although all of this is conjecture, one would hope the headlines will be much different should any team in the Big 12 actually choose to implement the use of drones.