You’ve seen Bud Foster yelling, punching, pointing, and jumping plenty on the sidelines over the years. This past season, though, we caught a different sight: starting with the Miami game and continuing through the Military Bowl, Foster called his plays from the booth. It was a first for the coach, initiated because of doctor’s orders for Miami and UVA, and then carried on for Marshall and Cincinnati. It was so odd that it became a trending topic of conversation among Hokie fans and a frequent press conference question. While the motivation of the switch has been the biggest point of interest, I’m going to talk about the mechanics of the switch, which haven’t been given as much attention.
There are two big reasons for coaching from the sideline. The first is that it’s faster for him to signal directly to players than it is to have his call relayed from the booth. When Foster is on the sideline, he thinks of the play he wants to call and then he gives the signal. When he’s in the booth, he thinks of the play, verbalizes it over the radio to the signal coach (Jack Tyler, in this instance), who then gives the signal to the defense. Assuming the lines of communication are clear, the booth signal should only take an instant longer than the ground-level option. But when he’s calling plays and making checks, that instant could be the difference between a prepared defense knowing the call and a confused defense having the ball snapped on them in mid-signal.
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