Have you ever wondered who is making the decisions on video reviews when NCAA football games go to the replay booth for a clarification to a call?
Every fall Saturday at some NCAA game that official is Penn Wagers, a 64-year-old Harleyville native, who spoke to members of the Orangeburg Touchdown Club at Thursday's meeting inside The Cinema.
"Penn is one of the most respected college football officials in the country," SC State head football coach Buddy Pough said, while introducing the speaker. "But, of course the internet never wants to talk about any thing good you've done, but you make news and it's out there for years if there's anything bad or questionable that you do.
"In his line of work, a lot of his calls on the field were questioned. But, he is now an instant replay guy, in the booth, deciding if the call stands or the call is confirmed or whatever."
After 42 years on the field officiating from SCISA games to South Atlantic Conference, MEAC, Southern Conference, BIG EAST, NFL Europe (4 years), SEC (15 years) and ACC (the 2015 season) games to the Rose Bowl, the past three seasons Wagers has been among the top officials in the replay booth for NCAA contests.
Wagers stepped out into the crowd and answered any questions asked of him during the OTC meeting. He also pointed out that replay officials sit in a booth with multiple video monitors and a computer technician to review plays on the field.
"Dean Blandino, who started off in the NFL as a photographer and a camera guy, who has never officiated a game in his life, is the one we call the father of instant replay," Wagers said of Blandino, who was the NFL's vice president of officiating from 2013 to 2017. "He was the one who talked with the NFL about the importance of instant replay.
"Instant replay is good. Why, because that's where I'm at now. We call it the retirement village. If we didn't have it in the game, I don't know that I'd even be speaking here today, because I wouldn't be doing this."
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Wagers pointed out that the targeting calls are so key in the college game today, helping keep players safe when making tackles and enduring tackles.
"I'm doing OK on my rulings on targeting, because that is a big thing, it can cripple a human being," Wagers said. "It's something we need to get out of our game, and we are working very hard to get the helmet hits out of our game.
"We had a lot of rule changes this year, and we have coaches on the committee that decides the rule changes. Coach Pough has served on the committee for years. All these guys get in that room and decide on the rule changes, along with our head of officiating. But, when fans don't like the rule, they like to blame us officials."
Wagers quoted a recent NCAA statistic for the 2019 season that targeting calls are down 20 percent, compared to last season. The rule is making players more cautious and helping protect athletes as they play the game.
"I think officiating is really getting better, and we are trying to get better," Wagers said. "The last thing we want to do is be the person causing all the problems, as an official.
"We just want to go out and work a perfect game."
Earlier at Thursday's meeting, ATI Physical Therapy Players of the Week were recognized, including Orangeburg Prep sophomore tailback Amir Tyler and Andrew Jackson Academy senior linebacker Adam Creswell.
Also at Thursday's meeting, Paul Miller presented OTC treasurer Roxane Cummings with the Orangeburg Touchdown Club Don Tribble/Geb Runager Unsung Hero Award, for her years of service to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club.
"Being a part of this organization has been a blessing, since it's a true reflection of our community," Cummings said.
The guest speaker for the Thursday, November 21 meeting of the Orangeburg Touchdown Club will be former South Carolina head football coach and current Clemson assistant athletic director/football director of player development Brad Scott. It will be the final OTC meeting of the season.