By Bill Riccio, Jr.
Connecticut State Rules Interpreter
When high school football fans attend their favorite games this fall, some new changes will be seen in the rules that will be readily apparent in some ways, and not so in others. In all, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) made 11 changes at its annual meeting in Indianapolis in January. The rules go into effect on Aug. 1.
In small rules changes, what is allowed to be printed on game balls has been specified as more advertising has come into the sport. The new rule says: Commercial advertising is not permitted on the ball. The only permissible items on the ball are the ball manufacturer’s name and/or logo; school name, logo and/or mascot; conference name and/or logo; state association name and/or logos; and NFHS name and/or logos.
For years, the rules committee has attempted to keep up with new styles in jerseys, while making sure dark and white shirts are easy for officials to delineate during games. The rewritten rule 1-5-1b(3) further clarifies that the jersey of the home team shall be a dark color clearly contrasting to the white jersey required for the visiting team.
Home game jersey specifications were further revised to provide schools and manufacturers additional clarification regarding the current trend of utilizing lighter gray shades. The implementation date of 2021 affords schools and manufacturers the opportunity to ensure that newer dark jerseys will clearly contrast with white. The requirement for contrasting colors to white is not a new rule, and this new clarification will allow changes to be made during normal replacement cycles.
In a pre-game change only applicable to officials, rules now allow someone other than the game’s umpire to accompany the referee to coaches meetings prior to the contest. In past years, the umpire was the designated officials.
This change now permits any of the game officials to accompany the referee to meet with the head coachfor equipment verification.
Rationale: Member state associations may determine the game official who is to accompany the referee during the required pre-game meeting with each head coach.
Blindside blocks have been called over the last several years when they are initiated with head or shoulder rather than hands-extended as initial contact. The rules refinements over the years are an attempt to limit contact that might cause concussions. This year the rule was further defined.
2-3-10 (NEW), 9-4-3n (NEW), 9-4 PENALTY: Added a new definition for a blindside block and specifies a penalty for an illegal blindside block. Continuing with the focus on risk minimization, the committee created a definition for a blindside block. This block involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.
A further safety rule was the elimination of the “pop-up” kick. With the advent of more artificial surfaces, kickers have popped up kicks by bouncing them immediately off the turf in a attempt to get to the ball or hit the receiver after it has gone the required 10 yards. The rules committee has eliminated this play.
A pop-up kick is a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee. Such kicks will be penalized as a dead-ball free-kick infraction.
In other minor changes, a revision clarifies that illegal participation fouls by the receiving team occurring during the kick are now enforced under post-scrimmage kick fouls, penalizing the team from the end of the kick, rather than the previous spot, which would give the ball back to the kicking team..
A rewrite of 2-32-16 expands the definition of a defenseless player by incorporating specific examples. The committee adopted specific examples of a defenseless player. By adding these examples, the committee continues to focus on risk minimization and responded to requests on the annual NFHS football rules questionnaire from participating coaches, game officials and state association representatives.
The committee added a new option to the offended team to start the clock on the snap for an accepted penalty inside the last two minutes of either half. The referee continues to have the authority to start or stop the clock if a team attempts to conserve or consume time illegally.
A new rule specifies that the ball is declared dead if a prosthetic limb comes completely off of the runner.
Other changes include a stipulation that it is encroachment to strike the ball or the snapper’s hand/arm prior to the snapper releasing the ball. This has always been the call, but now the rule reflects the way it was called.
Finally, a new rule removes non-contact face guarding as a foul for pass interference. Players will now have to make contact impeding a pass receiver for pass interference to be called.