The yellow line that appears on NFL telecasts to signify the first down line is one of the most revolutionary and well-known aspects of football on television. But not it appears that the first down line will be expanding its audience-to actual NFL stadiums.
According to ESPN.com, the first down line may become part of the in-game experience at all 32 NFL stadiums around the country. The instantly recognizable line is thought of by some casual football fans as a real line on the field and now that idea will become a reality.
The report says that Alan Amron along with former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall, has developed the First Down Laser System. Amron, who is an entrepreneur and concept promoter, said that the system projects a first-down line across the field that can be seen in the stadium and on TV.
According to the repost, Amron has previously met with the NFL in 2003 and 2009 and there could be another meeting in the future.
"They give me different opinions and suggestions along the way," Amron said to the Associated Press. "We comply with them and come back. They tell me it took them years and years to implement replay and the overhead cam. The NFL right now has made it very clear to us that they didn't want to eliminate the chains, but augmenting them wouldn't be a bad idea."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "We have not been convinced that it would work for us, but we are open to further discussion after the season."
While the league is not completely sold on the idea, the first time the marker appeared on TV there were skeptics as well.
"The NFL is our prime customer at this point," Amron said, "and if we can make something that they like, maybe the NCAA and Canadian Football League will follow suit."
According to Yahoo Sports, the new laser system would be attached to the first down markers on the field, allowing for them to project a contrasting light green line across the field. When a player hits the turf, by theory, it would become immediately apparent whether he made a first down.
"A misplaced ball on a first-down measurement can mean the difference between winning and losing a game," Summerall said.
For fans at home, the marker on TV is not 100 percent accurate, but usually gives a good measurement of whether a player reached a first down or not. According to Yahoo, Amron got the idea for the laser after watching a game at home, then going to the stadium and having to do without the line across the field.
"Right away I realized it would be a great thing to be able to project it onto the field," he said. "I filed patents on it within weeks."
The new feature would be another experience that the NFL fan gets at home translated to an actual stadium. With the rise of NFL RedZone and better television coverage, the NFL has made it a point to try to lure fans to the stadium, including through larger replay screens, internet access and showing clips from games around the league.
"It will help all teams bring more fans to the stadium to see the game in person," Summerall said.
The original 1st & Ten graphic system was developed in in 1978 by David W. Crain, but the idea did not gain any real traction until 1998, when ESPN Programmer Gary Morgenstern and other members of the company came back to the idea. According to ESPN, the technology was first used in 1998 by Sportvision, a private company, during coverage of a Bengals-Ravens game.
There have been many controversies over the years with referees not giving accurate first down marks for some players, since they only have the chains on the sidelines to use as a marker. This issue came up earlier in January in the Outback Bowl right before one of the best hits in football history from South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
The play was sparked by an awful call from the officials, who awarded Michigan a first down after a short rushing gain in the fourth quarter. The video clearly showed that the nose of the ball did not reach the first down marker, which could have been avoided with the new technology.
After the game, head coach Steve Spurrier spoke about his conversation with an official after it happened.
Spurrier: "You know the ball did not touch the first-down marker?"
Official: "I know it didn't."
Spurrier: "Well, why'd he give it to 'em?"
Official: "I don't know."
The NFL plans to review the technology and an official announcement could come in the offseason. The move could revolutionize the game, as players will know exactly where they need to reach to get a first down.