Army-Navy game marked innovation of instant replay 55 years ago

Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh scored two touchdowns in a matter of a few seconds, at least that’s what many viewers of the 1963 Army-Navy game thought they saw during that December broadcast. 

Calls flooded into CBS’ switchboard despite announcer Lindsey Nelson’s warning: “This is not live. Ladies and gentleman, Army did not score again."

The confusion from people at home was understandable. What viewers saw was the debut of instant replay, the invention of CBS Sports director Tony Verna. The equipment Verna described was the size of “two Frigidaires” had technical issues, which meant that the Stichweh 1-yard scamper was the only replay used that broadcast. 

Stichweh knows he wasn’t his first choice to be featured in the innovation that changed sports broadcasting and in later years became a tool to change calls on the the field, diamond, ice and court. Verna readily admitted before his death in 2015 he wanted the debut to be of Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, who led the Midshipmen to a 21-15 victory and claimed that year’s Heisman Trophy as a junior before NFL stardom.  

“I think if Tony was able to show Roger, he would have,” Stichweh told USA TODAY Sports this week. “That would make all the sense in the world. The equipment at the time was unpredictable, and you needed time to run back the tape, so there weren’t many opportunities that game. Scoring that touchdown was one of them.”

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