Menu

Rules & Regulations

Text

Rules and Regulations

2019 NFHS Rules Changes

 

High School Football Rules Changes  

 

40-Second Play Clock, State Option for Postseason Instant Replay Among Changes in High School Football

 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 11, 2019) — In an effort to establish a more consistent time period between downs in high school football, the play clock will start at 40 seconds instead of 25 seconds in many cases beginning with the 2019 season.

This change was one of seven rules revisions recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 13-15 meeting in Indianapolis, which were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

The play clock will continue to start at 25 seconds (a) prior to a try following a score, (b) to start a period or overtime series, (c) following administration of an inadvertent whistle, (d) following a charged time-out, (e) following an official’s time-out, with a few exceptions, and (f) following the stoppage of the play clock by the referee for any other reason. In all other cases, 40 seconds will be placed on the play clock and start when the ball is declared dead by a game official.

Previously, the ball was marked ready-for-play when, after it had been placed for a down, the referee gave the ready-for-play signal and the 25-second count began. Beginning next season, in addition to the above situations when the 25-second count is used, the ball will also be ready for play when, starting immediately after the ball has been ruled dead by a game official after a down, the ball has been placed on the ground by the game official and the game official has stepped away to position.

“The entire committee needs to be commended for its thorough discussion regarding the move to a 40-second play clock, except in specific situations that will still have a 25-second play clock to show play is ready to begin,” said Todd Tharp, assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee. “This is one of the most substantial game administration rules changes to be approved in the past 10 years, and without detailed experimentation from several state associations over the past three years, along with cooperation of the NFHS Football Game Officials Manual Committee, all the elements needed to approve this proposal would not have been in place.

Another significant change approved by the committee was the addition of a note to Rule 1-3-7 to permit state associations to create instant-replay procedures for state postseason contests only. This revision would allow game or replay officials to use a replay monitor during state postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Use of a replay monitor would be on a state-by-state adoption basis, and the methodology for reviewing calls would be determined by the applicable state association.

“The ultimate goal of each game official and each officiating crew is to get the call correct,” Tharp said. “Each state association, by individual adoption, can now use replay or video monitoring during its respective postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Each state association, if it adopts this rules revision, will also create the parameters and scope of the replay.”

With regard to uniforms, the NFHS Football Rules Committee clarified the size requirements for numbers on jerseys through the 2023 season and added a new requirement effective with the 2024 season. Clarifications to Rule 1-5-1c (in bold) that are in effect through the 2023 state that the numbers, inclusive of any border, shall be centered horizontally at least 8 inches and 10 inches high on front and back, respectively. In addition, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) exclusive of any border(s) shall be approximately 1½-inches wide. Finally, through the 2023 season, the body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) shall be either: (a) a continuous color(s) contrasting with the jersey color; or (b) the same color(s) as the jersey with a minimum of one border that is at least ¼-inch in width of a single solid contrasting color.

Effective with the 2024 season, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) of the number shall be a single solid color that clearly contrasts with the body color of the jersey.

“The purpose of numbers on jerseys is to provide clear identification of players,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and staff liaison to the NFHS Football Rules Committee. “In order to enhance the ability to easily identify players, the committee has clarified the size requirements for jersey numbers through the 2023 season and added a new requirement for the 2024 season.”

Two changes were approved by the committee in an effort to reduce the risk of injury in high school football. First, tripping the runner is now prohibited. Beginning next season, it will be a foul to intentionally use the lower leg or foot to obstruct a runner below the knees. Previously, a runner was not included in the definition of tripping. Second, in Rule 9-4-3k, the “horse-collar” foul was expanded to include the name-plate area, which is directly below the back collar. Colgate said grabbing the name-plate area of the runner’s jersey, directly below the back collar, and pulling the runner to the ground is now an illegal personal contact foul.

A change in the definition of a legal scrimmage formation was approved. A legal scrimmage formation now requires at least five offensive players on their line of scrimmage (instead of seven) with no more than four backs. The committee noted that this change will make it easier to identify legal and illegal offensive formations.

The final change approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee for the 2019 season was a reduction in the penalty for illegally kicking or batting the ball from 15 yards to 10 yards.
A complete listing of the football rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Football.”

According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 11-player football is the most popular high school sport for boys with 1,036,842 participants in 14,079 schools nationwide. In addition, there were almost 30,000 boys who participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football, along with approximately 2,500 girls who played the sport for a grand total of 1,068,870.

 

2019 NFHS FOOTBALL RULES CHANGES

BY STATE ASSOCIATION ADOPTION, USE OF VIDEO REVIEW ALLOWED FOR STATE POST-SEASON CONTESTS [1-3-7 NOTE (NEW), TABLE 1-7 – 1-3-7 NOTE (NEW)]
Rationale: By state association adoption, instant replay may only be used during state postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. This adoption would allow state associations to develop protocols for use of video replay.

IMPROVED VISIBILITY OF NUMBERS [1-5-1c, 1-5-1c(6) (NEW)]
Rationale: The purpose of numbers on jerseys is to provide clear identification of players. In order to enhance the ability to easily identify players, the committee has clarified the size requirements for jersey numbers through the 2023 season. The committee also added a new requirement that, effective in the 2024 season, jersey numbers must be a single solid color that clearly contrasts with the body color of the jersey.

REDEFINED REQUIREMENTS FOR A LEGAL SCRIMMAGE FORMATION [2-14-1, 7-2-5a]
Rationale: A legal scrimmage formation now requires at least five offensive players on their line of scrimmage with no more than four backs. This change will make it easier to identify legal and illegal offensive formations.

PROHIBITION ON TRIPPING THE RUNNER [2-45, 9-4-3o (NEW), 9-4-3o PENALTY (NEW)]
Rationale: In an effort to decrease risk, tripping the runner is now prohibited. It is now a foul to intentionally use the lower leg or foot to obstruct a runner below the knees.

40-SECOND PLAY CLOCK [2-35-1, 3-6-1, 3-6-2a, 7-2-1]
Rationale: To have a more consistent time period between downs, the rules committee approved situations where 40 seconds will be placed on the play clock. The new rule defines when 40 seconds will be placed on the play clock and when 25 seconds will be placed on the play clock.

HORSE-COLLAR TACKLE ADDITION [9-4-3k]
Rationale:
Grabbing the name plate area of the jersey of the runner, directly below the back collar, and pulling the runner to the ground is now an illegal personal contact foul.

ILLEGAL KICKING AND BATTING PENALTY REDUCED [9-7 PENALTY]
Rationale:
The penalty for illegally kicking or batting the ball was reduced from 15 yards to 10 yards.

2019 EDITORIAL CHANGES
2-6-2b, 5-2-2, 5-2-4, 6-5-4, 7-2-5a, 8-5-2 EXCEPTION, 9-3-8 PENALTY, 10-4-2c EXCEPTION, 10-5-1j

2019 POINTS OF EMPHASIS
1. Proper Procedures for Weather Delays
2. Expanded Neutral Zone as it Applies to Run or Pass Options
3. Free-Blocking Zone and Legal Blocking
**As of February 11, 2019

2018 NFHS Points of Emphasis

 2018 NFHS FOOTBALL POINTS OF EMPHASIS 


Proper Wearing and Use of Required Equipment 

Prior to the start of each game, the head coach must verify that all of his players have the proper equipment and that no illegal equipment will be used. The purpose of equipment rules is to ensure the safety and protection of both the player wearing the equipment and his opponent. Due to the potential for injury, game officials must strictly enforce equipment rules. Game officials have been reluctant to penalize a team for the failure of a player to properly wear all of the required equipment. This reluctance may be due to game officials assuming that equipment violations are a minor offense and do not warrant penalties. In view of this reluctance, a rule change has been implemented to lessen the severity of the consequence of violating equipment rules. With the lessened severity, it is imperative that game officials follow appropriate procedures when equipment violations occur. Equipment rules are an extremely important part of the game, and it is therefore essential that game officials are diligent in promptly addressing any and all equipment rule violations. 

Equipment violations can be grouped into three categories: (1) failure to properly wear required equipment, (2) failure to wear or use legal and/or required equipment, and (3) wearing illegal equipment. The first category encompasses instances where the required equipment is present, but is not worn properly. Examples include, but are not limited to, unsnapped chin straps, tooth and mouth protectors that are dangling, or jerseys that do not fully cover the shoulder pads or back pads. If game officials observe any improperly worn equipment during a dead-ball period, they should declare an official’s time-out and ask the player to make a correction. However, if the equipment issue is not recognized until the snap is imminent, the game official should immediately sound his whistle to prevent the snap from occurring, declare an official’s time-out and require that the player leave the game for at least one down to address the equipment issue. The second category is when a player is missing any required equipment. In this situation, an official’s time-out must be declared, the player must leave the game for at least one down and will not be allowed to return to the game until the missing equipment is obtained and properly worn by the player. The third category occurs when a player wears illegal equipment. Examples include, but are not limited to, the wearing of cleats that exceed ½-inch, or the presence of a sticky substance on a player’s uniform. If a player is detected wearing illegal equipment, his head coach is charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul under Rule 9-8-1h. 

If any equipment becomes illegal or defective during the game, correction must be made before the player continues to participate. Examples include chin-strap snaps which break off of the helmet or a jersey that slides up over the top of the shoulder pad. If the correction can be made without the assistance of a team attendant, and without delaying the ready-for-play signal by more than 25 seconds, an official’s time-out may be called to perform such correction. Alternatively, a team may request a charged time-out to perform the correction. However, if correction cannot be completed within 25 seconds, or during a charged timeout, the player may not continue to participate until correction is made. 

Pace of Play and Timing Issues 

In order to maintain a fair balance between offense and defense, a consistent pace of play should be established and maintained by the game officials during the entire contest. Each team should be allowed an equal opportunity to make substitutions and call plays during the time between the dead ball and the next ready-for-play signal. The pace of play should not change during the contest, and should be the same from game to game, and from officiating crew to officiating crew. Therefore, the committee recommends the ready-for-play signal be given between 12 and 15 seconds after the previous dead ball. This pace of play should be consistent no matter if either team wants to hurry up or slow down. Long incomplete passes, plays into the side zones and first downs may require the game officials to hustle to get the ball and line-to-gain equipment properly set, while short runs up the middle may require a slight delay before marking the ball ready for play. Consistency is the goal without regard to particular game situations. 

To accomplish a consistent pace, the referee should develop a “feel” for 12 to 15 seconds. This feel can be accomplished in many ways. A few examples could be for a referee to establish a routine of duties to perform after each dead-ball whistle, then mark the ball ready-for-play after completing those duties. A referee could also use the game clock to time 12 to 15 seconds if it is running and easily observable. Lastly, a referee could ask an observer to record the amount of time between a dead-ball whistle and the next ready-for-play so pace -of-play adjustments can be made during their next contest. With some attention by the referee and effort by the entire officiating crew, consistent pace of play can be achieved. 

In a similar fashion, game officials should also be vigilant about unfair use of the game  clock. Rule 3-4-6 has been around for many years and allows the referee to start or stop the game clock when a team attempts to illegally conserve or consume time. This rule applies at any time during the contest including the last two minutes of either half. Game officials are encouraged to become “clock aware” at 4:00 in each half for potential illegal clock manipulation. Game officials should also be “clock aware” near the end of the first and third periods if weather conditions or field conditions could give a team an advantage through the delay or acceleration of the reversal of-field position at the end of each period. 

In 2017, the NFHS Football Rules Committee adopted Rule 3-4-7 which gives an offended  team the option to start the clock on the snap when a penalty is accepted with less than two minutes left in either half. This option applies to any accepted penalty by either team if the clock would otherwise start on the subsequent ready-for-play signal. In a situation where there is a live-ball foul by one team and a dead-ball foul by the other, or a dead-ball foul by both teams, each team would be given the option to start the clock on the snap if it would have otherwise started on the ready-for-play. If either team exercises this option, the clock will start on the snap. It is of no significance whether or not the clock was running at the time a foul occurred. 

Enforcement of Penalties for Personal Fouls and Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls 

Rule 9-4 provides a list of illegal personal contact fouls. These acts are illegal due to the  potential for injury to an opponent. With a few notable exceptions, these fouls do not carry an automatic disqualification, although disqualification may result if the covering official judges the foul to be flagrant. Additionally, the penalties for repeated violations in the same game are not cumulative. For example, if a player pulls a ball carrier down by the face mask and later in the game commits a taunting foul, the player remains in the game. Unnecessary roughness fouls are personal fouls — not unsportsmanlike conduct fouls — and are not being included in the specific fouls that would lead to disqualification unless the act is flagrant. 

Unsportsmanlike conduct fouls never involve contact with an opponent. 

Game officials need to be aware of all circumstances before enforcing the distance penalty for a personal foul as there are several factors to be evaluated, such as the type of play (loose ball vs. running play), whether there was a change of possession, whether a score occurred during the play or whether a double foul or multiple fouls occurred. 

Rules 9-5 and 9-8-1 define noncontact unsportsmanlike conduct and provide general examples of such fouls including using profanity, vulgar language or gestures, attempting to influence a game official’s decision, a coach allowing his players to use illegal equipment, being on the field except as a substitute or replaced player and several other situations. 

Specific examples of unsportsmanlike conduct include but are not limited to the following: any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself; using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates or game officials; or using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.

 Unsportsmanlike conduct fouls accumulate and any player or non-player who receives  two such fouls is automatically disqualified from the contest. However, any single foul judged by the game official to be flagrant is disqualification. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are always enforced from the succeeding spot. 

Situations have arisen in recent years regarding unsportsmanlike conduct that have not been correctly called. For example, the “Where’s the tee?” play described in the case book is an example of unsportsmanlike conduct. The ball should be declared dead and the penalty should be enforced as a dead-ball foul. Football has been and will continue to be a game of deception and trickery involving multiple shifts, unusual formations and creative plays; however, actions and language designed to confuse the defense into believing there is a problem and a snap isn’t imminent are beyond the scope of fair play. 

Defenseless Player and Blindside Blocks 

In 2017, the NFHS adopted rules defining and giving examples of defenseless players, and rules prohibiting forceful blindside blocks outside the free-blocking zone unless initiated with open hands. Coaches and game officials should understand, teach and apply these rules in a manner promoting player safety and minimizing the risk of player injury. 

Defenseless Player A defenseless player is one who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury. The most common types of defenseless players include passers, receivers, sliding runners, runners whose forward progress is stopped, players out of the play and players who are blindside blocked. 

A defenseless player is not in an equal physical position with the player attacking him  and could be severely injured when contacted. For example, a player passing or attempting to catch a ball is completely exposed to opponents. A player obviously out of the play has no reason to think an opponent will charge into him. A runner in an opponent’s grasp and whose forward progress has been stopped cannot defend himself from an opponent taking a free shot at him. A downed runner or a runner giving himself up and sliding feet first cannot protect himself against unnecessary contact. A player receiving a blindside block is unaware of the opponent charging him. What is common among all these situations is that the player cannot defend himself or avoid potential contact, leaving himself vulnerable to injury. Special attention must be given to contact against these players to determine if it is legal. Although defenseless players who are involved in the play may be contacted by an opponent, the player initiating contact must do so in a legal manner. 

The term “defenseless player” is relatively new to the rules, but the protection afforded these players is not. For several years, the rules have penalized roughing the passer, kick catching interference, illegal helmet contact, unnecessary roughness and late hits. Classifying players as defenseless reinforces the prohibition against illegal contact and emphasizes the need to protect the most vulnerable players. Excessive and unnecessary contact, including forceful contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player, has long been illegal, and it has no part in the game. Coaches must exercise leadership in eliminating illegal contact, and game officials must act decisively to penalize illegal contact to minimize the risk of player injury. 

Blindside Blocks A blindside block is an effective blocking technique. There is nothing improper in executing blindside blocks generally, and the rules do not preclude their use altogether. Instead, to enhance player safety and minimize the risk of injury, the rules prohibit a specific type of blindside block: one that is forceful, is not initiated with open hands and occurs outside the free-blocking zone. 

A blindside block is a foul if: (1) the block occurs outside of the free-blocking zone; (2) the blocker does not initiate the block with open hands; and (3) the block is forceful. If all three of these factors are present, the blindside block is illegal. 

Coaches should teach proper blindside blocking techniques, and game officials should  evaluate whether a blindside block is legal, based on these three factors and the considerations below, as well as the underlying spirit and intent of the rules—to promote safety, eliminate illegal contact and minimize the risk of injury to players. 

Whether the player being blocked can see the block coming. A blindside block is “a block against an opponent other than the runner, who does not see the blocker approaching.” In other words, it is a block that the opponent does not see coming. 

Game officials must first determine whether a block is a blindside block. Usually, this  will be obvious. The player being blocked will be looking away from the blocker while being blocked from the side by an opponent. In some situations, however, the player being  blocked may turn his head to see the blocker just before contact occurs. Such contact is still considered a blindside block. Though the player may have seen the blocker approach, he did not do so in sufficient time to have a reasonable opportunity to react, adjust and defend himself.

Some element of time, though it may be very short, is necessary to accomplish the rule’s  safety purposes. In most situations, the blocker is running at full speed, increasing his momentum and focusing on one player. The player being blocked, however, is focused elsewhere and completely unaware of the charging blocker. Such a player who turns his head at the last second and sees his opponent just before contact cannot realistically protect himself. He is just as defenseless and vulnerable to injury as if he had not turned his head at all. Game officials should not be overly technical with this requirement and should always err on the side of player safety. The intent of this rule is to protect the player being blocked. It is not intended to create a legal way of throwing a shoulder or body block. When in question, the block is a blindside block. 

Whether the block occurred outside of the free-blocking zone. If a blindside block occurs in the free-blocking zone, it is legal even if the contact is forceful and even if it is not initiated with open hands. Of course, the contact must otherwise be legal—a player cannot clip or target an opponent, for example. However, the free-blocking zone exists only during scrimmage plays, and it disintegrates as soon as the ball leaves the zone. When the zone is gone, any blindside block by rule occurs outside of the free-blocking zone and, if forceful, must be initiated with open hands to be legal. 

Whether the block was initiated with the open hands. Any forceful blindside block outside the free-blocking zone must be initiated with open hands. Blocks initiated with the shoulder or body are dangerous because of the amount of force they generate. Blocks initiated with open hands are significantly less dangerous because they do not typically generate that same amount of force. The open-hands requirement is intended to reduce the force associated with blindside blocks. 

As a result, game officials should consider two things in determining whether a blocker has complied with the open-hand requirement. First, the blocker’s initial contact with his opponent must be with open hands if the block is forceful. Second, the force of the block should come from the blocker’s hands and arms rather than from his shoulder or body. 

A player who makes first contact with open hands and imparts a force to the opponent by  extending his hands and arms has complied with this rule. However, a player who makes first contact with open hands but nonetheless forcefully drives his shoulder or body into his opponent has not complied with the rule. Instead, he has thrown a shoulder or body block with all the force that his shoulder and body carry. The open-hand requirement is meant to reduce that type of force. It is not intended to allow an otherwise illegal shoulder or body block simply by placing open hands on the opponent at the last second. 

Whether the block was forceful. If a player has thrown a non-open-handed blindside  block outside the free-blocking zone, game officials must finally determine whether the block is forceful. If the block is forceful, it is a foul; if not forceful, it is not. 

“Forceful contact” is something more than minor contact but something less than excessive  contact. The contact should be significant enough to notice, but it does not have to be violent or otherwise unnecessary to be forceful. As an aid to judging whether a block is forceful, the covering official should consider whether the blocker was only attempting to take his opponent out of the play, or whether the block was intended to take the opponent out of the game. The former is legal, while the latter is illegal

Game officials should take the entire block into consideration. The focus should be on the block itself and the blocker, because he is the player generating the force behind the block. The reaction of the player being blocked may help, but it is not the determining factor. Game officials should never base their decision on forceful contact solely on whether the player goes to the ground.

Where a blocker’s shoulder or body contact results in minor movement of the opponent  and the force of the block is not obvious, the block is not forceful. However, where the blocker makes contact with some obvious degree of force behind the block, contact is forceful regardless of the effect on the opponent. 

Finally, game officials should be diligent in observing these blocks and penalizing infractions. Although the rule applies throughout the game, blindside blocks are most likely to be made by the offense on returns following interceptions, free kicks and punts. They may also occur when the offense reverses direction on the field. Game officials must use proper mechanics on these plays and be in position to observe players throwing blindside blocks. The most likely offenders will be those doing something different from others. For example, if most players are moving north, these players will be moving south or east and west. These are the players who crack or peel back, “swim upstream” or “go against the grain,” and they are suspect for potentially committing illegal contact fouls. 

Through good position and technique, a player initiating an open-handed blindside block can effectively obstruct his opponent with sufficient forceful contact while minimizing the risk of player injury. By teaching these techniques and consistently penalizing infractions, coaches and game officials will have continued taking positive steps toward reinforcing player safety, minimizing injury, and removing unnecessary and excessive contact from the game. 

**As of June 2018 

2018 NFHS Game Officials Manual POE


 2018-2019 NFHS FOOTBALL GAME OFFICIALS MANUAL POINTS OF EMPHASIS 


Equipment Issues to be Addressed 

It is critical for all game officials to continue to strengthen their efforts to address all issues that deal with the current equipment requirements. Game officials must focus on these three areas of concern: (1) required equipment not worn properly (pants that do not cover the knees), (2) required and/or legal equipment missing or not being used correctly (no knee pads, thigh guards or hip pads), and (3) wearing illegal equipment (a hard cast not properly covered). 


One adjustment made to Rule 1-5-4 requires that the head coach will verify to the referee and another game official prior to the game that "his players have been issued all of the required equipment and they will not use illegal equipment." 


Crew members are encouraged to become very observant throughout their pre-game responsibilities and to be prepared to immediately address any equipment issues with the player and a coach. Appropriate communication with the player in the presence of the coach allows for correction to be made prior to the beginning of the contest and avoids problems during the game. 


Once the game has started, a major rule change (NFHS Football Rule 3-5-10e) for 2018 calls for an official's time-out to be declared for the removal from the game for at least one down of any player who is wearing required/legal equipment improperly or not at all or is wearing illegal equipment. It is certainly appropriate to allow the correction of the equipment problem quickly and avoid removing the player if the correction/repair is clearly possible in a timely manner (a tooth and mouth protector is hanging from the face mask or a back pad attached to the shoulder pads is not covered by the jersey). Multiple requests are NOT recommended/encouraged to address an equipment problem that continues to be an issue. NFHS Football Rule 3-5-10e is likely to get results as this concern is addressed. 


Rule 9-9 (Failure to Properly Wear Required Equipment) has been deleted from the 2018 NFHS Football Rules Book. Rule 3-6-2 no longer calls for a delay-of-game foul for failure to properly wear required/legal equipment. An important change to Rule 9-8-1h calls for an unsportsmanlike foul charged to the head coach if, and only if, a player(s) is wearing illegal equipment. 


Game officials are very strongly urged to immediately address this current problem with equipment issues early and often as the 2018 season begins. There is appropriate rule support now for dealing with these problems, and this problem cannot be ignored. It will not go away if game officials fail to take appropriate action. 


Consistent Pace of Play Throughout the Game 

The time difference in marking the ball ready-for-play from referee to referee has incorrectly varied and often very significantly. The time period between downs is supposed to be dictated by the offensive team and not the game officials. The rules afford teams the option of running their offense as fast or as slow as they choose. In many situations, teams are waiting for game officials to declare the ball ready-for-play and could have already resumed, or attempted to resume play. Once the ball is retrieved and placed on the ground for play, all game officials should be in position and ready to officiate without worry of an illegal snap. While regularity and consistency is the responsibility of every game official on the field, the referee likely has the most effect on this procedure. Situations occur such as the referee being overly patient for a quarterback receiving the play call from the coach at the sideline or other crew members unevenly hurrying to retrieve the ball as time declines near the end of a half. Such practices, as inadvertent as they may be, project an inappropriate attitude of bias towards one team or the other and additionally subtract from the fairness of the game. 


The 2018-2019 NFHS Football Game Officials Manual is clear on the appropriate procedures in the Basic Philosophy Principles section entitled "Marking the Ball Ready for Play." After the ball is spotted, three to five seconds should be the maximum time to signal the ready-for-play, and game officials are required to" hustle to their proper positions" so that the "same tempo can be maintained throughout the game." Teams want and deserve consistency in this regard. 


Timing Rules and Procedures 

While the rules allow for some flexibility in length of periods and halftime intermissions, there are set limitations. Risk minimization continues to be an emphasis in football and certain rules are in place to protect warm-up and rest periods, and these rules must be followed without exception. 


Length of Periods can be shortened: 

1. Shorten any period or periods in any emergency by agreement of opposing coaches and the referee. By mutual agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee, any remaining period may be shortened at any time or the game terminated. (3-1-3) 

2. By agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee, the halftime intermission may be reduced to a minimum of 10 minutes (not including the mandatory warm-up period). (TABLE 3-1) 

3. When weather conditions are construed to be hazardous to life or limb of the participants, the crew of game officials is authorized to delay or suspend the game. (3-1-5) 


When dealing with lightning or thunder disturbances during a game, please refer to the "NFHS Guidelines on Handling Practices and Contests During Lightning or Thunder Disturbances" in Appendix E of the NFHS Football Rules Book. If a lightning or thunder disturbance occurs near halftime intermission, this delay cannot be treated as halftime intermission. After a weather delay, by rule the second period must be completed and halftime intermission shall be declared. (3-1-3) Halftime intermission may be reduced to a minimum of 10 minutes by agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee. (3-1-3, TABLE 3-1) Rest periods are important for the well-being of the players and should be followed as prescribed. 

**As of June 2018 


2018 NFHS Football Jersey Rules

NFHS FOOTBALL JERSEY and PANT RULES

(March 2018)

RULE 1-5-1:

ART. 1 . . . Mandatory Equipment.

Each player shall participate while wearing the following pieces of properly fitted equipment, which shall be professionally manufactured and not altered to decrease protection:

b. Jersey:

1. A jersey, unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design/production, and which shall be long enough to reach the top of the pants and shall be tucked in if longer. It must completely cover the shoulder pads and all pads worn above the waist on the torso.

2. Players of the visiting team shall wear jerseys, unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design/production, that meet the following criteria: The body of the jersey (inside the shoulders, inclusive of the yoke of the jersey or the shoulders, below the collar, and to the bottom of the jersey) shall be white and shall contain only the listed allowable adornments and accessory patterns in a color(s) that contrasts to white:

(a) as the jersey number(s) required in 1-5-1c or as the school’s nickname, school logo, school name and/or player name within the body and/or  on the shoulders,

(b) either as a decorative stripe placed during production that follows the curve of the raglan sleeve or following the shoulder seam in traditional yoke construction, not to exceed 1 inch at any point within the body of the jersey; or as decorative stripe(s) added in the shoulder area after production, not to exceed 1 inch per stripe and total size of combined stripes not to exceed 3.5 inches, (c) within the collar, a maximum of 1 inch in width, and/or (d) as a side seam (insert connecting the back of the jersey to the front), a maximum of 4 inches in width but any non-white color may not appear within the body of the jersey (inside the shoulders, inclusive of the yoke of the jersey or the shoulders, below the collar, and to the bottom of the jersey). The exception to (d) would be what is stated in (b) above. (e) The visiting team is responsible for avoidance of similarity of colors, but if there is doubt, the referee may require players of the home team to change jerseys.

NOTE: One American flag, not to exceed 2 inches by 3 inches, may be worn or occupy space on each item of uniform apparel.

By state association adoption, to allow for special occasions, commemorative or memorial patches, not to exceed 4 square inches, may be worn on the uniform without compromising its integrity.

3. Players of the home team shall wear jerseys, unaltered from the manufacturer’s  original  design/production, that meet the following criteria: The body of the jersey (inside the shoulders,  inclusive of the yoke of the jersey or the shoulders, below the collar, and to the bottom of the jersey) may  not include white, except as stated below.

Effective 2021, the jerseys of the home team shall be a dark color that clearly contrasts to white. If white appears in the body of the jersey of the home team, it may only appear:

(a)as the jersey number(s) required in 1-5-1c or as the school’s nickname, school

logo, school name and/or player name within the body and/or on the shoulders,

(b) either as a decorative stripe placed during production that follows the curve of the raglan sleeve or following the shoulder seam in traditional yoke construction, not to exceed 1 inch at any point within the body of the jersey; or as decorative stripe(s) added in the shoulder area after production, not to exceed 1 inch per stripe and total size of combined stripes not to exceed 3.5 inches, (c) within the collar, a maximum of 1 inch in width, and/or (d) as a side seam (insert connecting the back of the jersey to the front), a maximum of 4 inches in width but any white color may not appear within the body of the jersey (inside the shoulders, inclusive of the yoke of the jersey or the shoulders, below the collar, and to the bottom of the jersey). The exception to (d) would be what is

stated in (b) above.  (e) The visiting team is responsible for avoidance of similarity of colors, but if there is doubt, the referee may require players of the home team to change jerseys.

NOTE: One American flag, not to exceed 2 inches by 3 inches, may be worn or occupy space on each item of uniform apparel. By state association adoption, to allow for special occasions, commemorative or memorial patches, not to exceed 4 square inches, may be worn on the uniform without compromising its integrity.

c. Numbers:

1. The numbers shall be clearly visible and legible using Arabic numbers 1-99 inclusive and shall be on the front and back of the jersey.

2. The numbers shall be centered horizontally at least 8 inches and 10 inches high on front and back, respectively, and with continuous bars or strokes approximately 1½-inches wide.

3. The color and style of the number shall be the same on the front and back.

4. The body of the number shall be either: (a) a continuous color(s) contrasting with thejersey color, or (b) the same solid color(s) as the jersey with a minimum of one border that is at least ¼-inch in width of a single solid contrasting color.

d. Pads and Protective Equipment

– The following pads and protective equipment are required of all players:

1. Hip pads and tailbone protector which are unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design/production.

2. Knee pads which are unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design/production, which are worn over the knee and under the pants and shall be at least ½ inch thick or 3/8 inch thick if made of shock absorbing material.

3.  Shoulder pads and hard surface auxiliary attachments, which shall be fully covered by a jersey.

4. Thigh guards which are unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design/production.

e. Pants-which completely cover the knees, thigh guards and knee pads and any portion of any knee brace  that does not extend below the pants.

RULE 1-5-3:

ART. 3 . . . Illegal Equipment

. No player shall participate while wearing illegal equipment. This applies to any equipment, which in the opinion of the umpire is dangerous, confusing or inappropriate. Illegal equipment shall always include but is not limited to:

a. The following items related to the Game  Uniform:  1. Jerseys and pants that have: (a) A visible logo/trademark or reference exceeding 2¼ square inches and exceeding 2¼ inches in any dimension. (b) More than one manufacturer’s logo/trademark or reference on the outside of either item. (The same size restriction shall apply to either the manufacturer’s logo/trademark or reference). (c) Sizing, garment care or other nonlogo labels on the outside of either item.

3.Tear-away jerseys or jerseys that have been altered in any manner that produces a knot-like protrusion or creates a tear-away jersey.

c. The following items related to Other Illegal Equipment: 1. Ball-colored helmets, jerseys, patches, exterior arm covers/pads, undershirts or gloves.

5.  Jerseys, undershirts or exterior arm covers/pads manufactured to enhance contact with the football or opponent.

9. Equipment not worn as intended by the manufacturer.

2018 NFHS Rules Interpretations

Attention Coaches & ADs: Helmet Reconditioning

NEW - "After Market" items to be removed from helmets to return them to original condition. Read More


A reminder of the message sent to member schools who sponsor football on March 10:  The NFHS received notification from the NAERA, National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association, that effective in 2012, no football helmet older than ten years will be reconditioned and recertified.  This would apply to helmets dated 2002 or older.  Click Here.
 
The change will impact helmets for use in the 2012 football season.  This is neither a ‘WIAA rule’ nor an ‘NFHS rule’.  This directive is coming from the reconditioners themselves and it is significant.

Coaches Information

Helmet to Helmet Emphasis

Education – along with proper football techniques – is one of the biggest deterrents to concussions and one of the keys to athletes being treated properly if one does occur

Direct helmet-to-helmet contact and any other contact both with and to the helmet must be eliminated from the sport of football at the interscholastic level! Using the helmet to inflict punishment on the opponent is dangerous and illegal. Coaches and game officials must be diligent in promoting the elimination of contact to and with the helmet, as follows:

• Coaches -- through consistent adherence to proper and legal coaching techniques.

• Game Officials -- through strict enforcement of pertinent playing rules and game administrations.

Coaches must insist that players play “heads-up” football by utilizing proper and safe techniques, - not only during games, but on the practice field as well. Coaches must  shoulder the responsibility of consistently reinforcing with their players that using the top or face of the helmet goes against all tenets of the basic techniques of safe and legal blocking and tackling.

The No. 1 responsibility for game officials must be player safety. Any initiation of contact with the helmet is illegal; therefore, it must be penalized consistently and without warning. Player safety is really a matter of attitude, technique, attention and supervision. Football players will perform as they are taught; therefore, there must be a concentrated focus on consistently enforcing the existing rules. And contrary to most other rule enforcements, when in doubt, contact to and with the helmet should be ruled as a foul by game officials. Contact to and with the helmet may be considered a flagrant act and may be penalized by disqualification if a game official considers the foul so severe or extreme that it places an opponent in danger of serious injury.

NOCSAE - Third Party Helmet Add-On

NFHS Information


NOCSAE Statement - Add-Ons (2018)NOCSAE Statement - Add-ons


The NFHS does not perform scientific tests on any specific items of equipment to determine if the equipment poses undue risks to the student-athletes, coaches, officials or spectators. Such determinations are the responsibility of equipment manufacturers, and we rely heavily on products meeting NOCSAE standards.
 
NFHS Football Rule 1-5-1a states, in part, that “A helmet and facemask which met the NOCSAE test standard at the time of manufacture…” is required. A consideration in determining whether add-on helmet attachments are legal is that our rule specifies only that the helmet had to meet the NOCSAE test standard at the time of manufacture; helmet add-ons typically are added after the time of helmet manufacture.
 
The attached NOCSAE Statement gives manufacturers of add-on attachments (in the fourth bullet) the option to have helmets tested with the helmet add-on attached; however, this would presumably require such manufacturers to test every make and model of helmet with their add-on attached.
 
The third bullet of the NOCSAE Statement gives the right to helmet manufacturers to determine, under the NOCSAE standards, whether given helmet add-on items would render the certification void. While that may occur, we have no information that it has happened yet.
 
In the interim, absent decisions by the helmet manufacturers, under the NOCSAE standards, to declare their certifications void pursuant to the third bullet point, or absent further revisions of the pertinent NOCSAE Statement, or absent an NFHS football rules change, our position about the permissive use of such helmet add-ons remains unchanged from last August.
 
We know and understand that this position by NFHS is not as proactive as some may wish as to whether given helmet add-ons should be considered legal; however, when considering the NOCSAE Statement and the applicable rules, the NFHS is not in a position to change our Rules Review Committee determination that such equipment is permissive. 


NOCSAE statement on third party helmet add-on products and certification 


There are many new products on the market that are intended to be added to helmets, in particular football helmets, which products claim to reduce concussions and make helmets safer and more protective.  Read the entire NOCSAE Position Statement


NOCSAE - Virginia Tech STAR Helmet Rating 5/30/14

Rating System Cannot Predict Helmets’ Ability to Prevent Concussions
Protecting Against Injury Does Not Start or End With Helmet Purchase

 

OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS (May 27, 2014) – The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) applauds and encourages the growing research in the area of concussion protection for athletes, including the work released this month by Virginia Tech. Coaches, consumers and parents should be aware that while the STAR rating system suggests the purchase of specific football helmets, scientific evidence does not support the claim that a particular helmet brand or model is more effective in reducing the occurrence of concussive events.  Read More


Statement from the National Operating  Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment Regarding 2013 Virginia Tech Star Rating System 

“The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) supports and encourages the scientific research being done by Virginia Tech in the very important area of concussion protection for athletes in all sports, and particularly in football. There are, however, very important limitations in the STAR ranking system as recognized by the experts at Virginia Tech. NOCSAE believes that many parents, players, coaches, and athletic directors are unaware of these limitations. Unless the limitations of the STAR ranking system are considered, the potential exists for players, parents, coaches, and administrators to overemphasize the role of the helmet in protecting against concussions. This overemphasis increases the likelihood that less attention will be given to other steps that have a more immediate and much greater impact on concussion reduction. Read More

Preseason Information

Targeting

Minimizing risk for all participants is the number one priority.

When in doubt as to whether or not a targeting foul has occurred - game officials will be instructed to call targeting.

When in doubt as to whether or not a flagrant targeting foul has been committed - game officials will be instructed to classify the foul as flagrant and disqualify the offending player.

WIAA Adaptations to NFHS Rules

Printable Version -- Please print and place in your rule book for future reference. 

8-Player vs. 11-Player

Rule Differences

EIGHT-PLAYER RULES


GENERAL: Eleven-player rules are used for eight-player football with the following modifications. 


RULE 1: Each team has 8 players. The field is 80 yards between goal lines and 40 yards wide with  15-yard side zones. Seven-yard marks, 12 inches in length and 4 inches in width, shall be located 7 yards from each sideline. The 7-yard marks shall be marked so that at least each 10-yard line bisects the 7-yard marks. These marks shall not be required if the field is visibly numbered. If on-the-field numbers are used, the tops of those numbers shall be 7 yards from the sideline. By state association adoption, the 11-player field may be designated as official, and the dimensions of the field may be altered. 


RULE 2: The free-blocking zone is a square area extending laterally 3 yards either side of the spot of the 

snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage. 


RULE 2: The Outside Nine Yard Mark and Between Nine Yard Mark Conferences shall be held outside or 

between the seven yard marks, respectively. 


RULE 6:K’s free-kick line is its 30-yard line and R’s free-kick line is the 40. 


RULE 7: a. At least five A players shall be on their line at the snap and may have any legal jersey number. 

b. After the ball is marked ready for play, each player of A who participated in the previous 

down, and each substitute for A must have been, momentarily, between the 7-yard marks, 

before the snap. 

c. Each A player (regardless of jersey number) who at the snap was on an end of the 

 scrimmage line (total of two) and each A  

player who at the snap was legally behind the 

scrimmage line (possible total of three) is eligible. 


RULE 8: On the eight-player field, the ball is snapped after a touchback and is free kicked after a safety 

from the 15-yard line. 


RULE 10: The basic spot for a foul as in 10-4-6 shall be the 15-yard line.

Football Field Differences

For neutral sites and the state championship, a 100 yard field will be used.

WIAA Fall Football Acclimatization

The WIAA has been providing member schools and coaches with information about heat illness and the risk of EHI; and limits of two-a-day practices for years.  With a strong, evidence-based, effective policy for EHI, the WIAA will have an effective policy to protect the student-athlete. The acclimatization plan must be followed during summer contact if school resources are used. Read more.  NOTE:  After the 10th day of practice, teams may only practice a maximum of 2.5 hours without the required break (two-a-days are no longer beyond the 10th day). 

Fall Football Acclimatization (Course)

WIAA Football Player on Player Contact

Player on Player contact was defined into five types using existing definitions:  air, bags, wrap, thud, and live/full.  The five types of contact were divided into two categories: Drill (air, bags, and wrap) contact and Competition/Full (thud & live/full) contact.  Drill contact is unlimited during the practices.  Competition/Full is limited to none the first week of practice, 75 minutes the second week of practice, and 60 minutes the third week of practice and beyond.  The Fall Acclimatization plan must be followed as directed throughout the season. Click here for the WIAA Football Player on Player Contact Rule | FB Player on Player Contact (Course)