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Football Team Not Playing Varsity Schedule (also 11-plyr changing to 8-plyr & 8-plyr changing to 11-plyr)

Rules and Regulations

2023 NFHS Rules Changes

Changes in Basic Spot for Penalty Enforcement Headline 2023 High School Football Rules Changes

By NFHS on February 02, 2023 

A  notable change to Rule 10 of the NFHS Football Rules Book will eliminate the excessive penalty enforcements for offensive fouls that occur behind the line of scrimmage in high school football.

This change in Rule 10-4 (Basic Spots) is one of seven revisions recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 8-10 meeting in Indianapolis. All changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors for the 2023 high school football season.

In a move to achieve one of the committee’s fundamental tasks of maintaining a balance between offense and defense, this revision stipulates the basic spot for enforcement of fouls behind the line of scrimmage is the previous spot rather than the spot of the foul. Current penalties for illegal kicking, batting and participation fouls, as well as provisions for offensive fouls occurring in the end zone that may result in a safety, remain intact.  

As an example, with the change in Rule 10-4, a team on offense at its own 40-yard line that is called for holding 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage at its own 30-yard line, would be faced with first and 20 from its 30-yard line rather than the almost insurmountable task of first and 30 from its own 20-yard line. 

“This is an excellent rule change that the majority of game officials and coaches requested and that our NFHS Football Rules Committee members approved unanimously,” said Richard McWhirter, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA). “I believe this change will make the rule clearer for coaches and easier for game officials to administer.”

In a change that addresses another goal of every NFHS rules committee – risk minimization – additional criteria were approved to help identify players who should be defined as defenseless receivers related to application of unnecessary or excessive contact.

An addition (d) to Rule 2-32-16 states that another example of a defenseless player includes a receiver, as previously defined in the rule, including the person intercepting the pass, who is forcefully contacted by an opponent that is not 1) incidental contact as a result of making a play on the ball, 2) initiated with open hands, or 3) an attempt to tackle by wrapping arm(s) around the receiver.

The committee also approved a clarification to the intentional grounding rule change implemented last year. The change in Rule 7-5-2EXCEPTION permits the exception for intentional grounding to the first and only player to possess the ball after the snap ends.    

A revision in Rule 2-29-1 clarifies when a player is inbounds after being out of bounds. While the committee approved additional language for clarification, there is no change to any foul or subsequent penalty provisions, or any rules related to illegal participation or the provisions regarding eligibility to catch a pass.

One change was approved in Rule 1-5-3 regarding player equipment, specifically player towels, which now may contain one manufacturer’s logo and/or one school logo, neither exceeding 2¼ square inches. Towels must be a solid color, but now do not have to be the same color for each player. Towels may not, however, be the color of the ball or penalty flag.  

In Rule 7-5 (TABLE) regarding forward pass interference, the word “intentional” was removed, which puts the rule in line with how it is already enforced, which is a 15-yard penalty.

A final change was approved in the rules differences for six-player football, which along with eight-player and nine-player use the basic 11-player football rules with exceptions. An exception in Rule 7 was approved for six-player football stating that “a direct forward handoff may be made during a scrimmage down before a change of possession, provided both players are in or behind the neutral zone unless it is to the snapper.”

This change allows the ball to be handed forward on a running play, including to the guards/ends, while prohibiting handing the ball to the snapper, provided both players are behind the neutral zone.

“The NFHS Football Rules Committee continually strives to clarify the playing rules for optimal game efficiency,” McWhirter said. “These changes exemplify that goal.”

The NFHS Football Rules Committee is composed of one representative from each of the NFHS member state associations that use NFHS football rules, along with a representative from the NFHS Coaches Association, NFHS Officials Association and NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

A complete listing of the football rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Football.”

According to the 2021-22 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 11-player football is the most popular high school sport for boys with 973,792 participants in 13,733 schools nationwide. In addition, there were 34,935 boys who participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football, along with 3,633 girls in all four versions of the game for a grand total of 1,012,360.

2022 NFHS Rules Clarification

Football Rules Clarification- 2022

2022 NFHS Football Case Book Clarification

(Underlining shows additions; strikethrough shows deletions.) 
Page 78, 9.3.2 SITUATION F: A1 and A2 combine in blocking B1 as follows: (a) both block B1 downfield with A1 making contact above the waist and A2 simultaneously making contact below the waist but above the knees; or (b) both block B1 in the free-blocking zone with A1's block above the waist and A2's block below the waist; or (c) A1 blocks B1 above the waist as part of immediate, initial action following the snap and at the same time, A2 blocks B1 below the waist and above the knees; or (d) both A1 and A2 block B1 below the knees from the front of B1 while in the free-blocking zone. RULING: In (a), (b) and (c) illegal chop block by A2; Illegal block below the waist by A2 in (a) since the block is not in the free-blocking zone even if part of the immediate, initial action following the snap; in (b) illegal chop block by A2; in (c) the block by A2 is legal if both blockers were on the line of scrimmage and in the free-blocking zone at the snap and the block was part of the immediate, initial action following the snap; in (d) this combination or multiple block is legal if the block and both blockers were in the free-blocking zone at the snap and the block was part of the immediate, initial action following the snap. (2-17-2, 9-3-6)





RULE 1-4-3:

ART. 3 . . . Each player shall be numbered 0 through 99 inclusive.

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. 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 0-99 inclusive and shall be on the front and back of the jersey.
  2. The numbers, inclusive of any border(s), shall be centered horizontally at least 8 inches and 10 inches high on front and back, respectively.
  3. The entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) exclusive of any border(s) shall be approximately 11⁄2-inches wide.
  4. The color and style of the number shall be the same on the front and back.
  5. 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 solid color(s) as the jersey with a minimum of one border that is at least 1⁄4-inch in width of a single solid contrasting color.

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

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 1⁄2 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 21⁄4 square inches and exceeding 21⁄4 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.
4. Any transverse stripe on the sleeve below the elbow.

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.

2022-23 NFHS FB Game Officials Manual Points of Emphasis




Football is an emotional game, due not only to the amount of physical contact between players but also to the competitive spirit ingrained in most players and coaches. Game officials and coaches must recognize the passion and intensity inherent in the game and manage their interactions in a way that avoids stoking the fire of emotional response to game situations.

Game officials must recognize their role in the game: to provide a service to the coaches and players in an unemotional and impartial manner. Game officials must always be respectful and maintain a calm demeanor in their comments to coaches, especially when tension is high. Game officials must avoid the urge to respond in kind to coaches who are vocal in their disagreement of the judgment of game officials. The game official’s job is to de-escalate the tension and explain the decision in a concise and matter-of-fact manner.
This is difficult to do, especially when a coach is screaming at a game official. In those cases, the game official must actively listen to what the coach is saying and then respond factually and unemotionally. Game officials must anticipate game situations where coaches will be upset and pre-emptively diffuse the situation. This requires strong communications skills and empathy and understanding of the coach’s perspective. A game official should never threaten the coach with consequences for their behavior, nor should a game official become defensive. If a coach crosses the line, then the game official’s option is to flag the coach for unsportsmanlike conduct. However, throwing a flag should be a last resort. A better approach is to clearly and calmly tell the coach that the comments or behavior are unacceptable, and that it’s difficult to focus on the action on the field if the coach is repeatedly distracting the game official.

Coaches must understand that their behavior has a profound impact on their players. Players tend to behave the way their coaches behave. If coaches show little respect for game officials and make derogatory comments, players will likely treat game officials similarly. Coaches should win gracefully and lose with dignity. Coaches must also understand that the football field is an extension of the classroom and must set a strong example for their players to follow. This includes respecting the decisions of game officials even when they disagree, and handling disagreements in a civil and dignified manner. This doesn’t mean that coaches must accept everything that occurs during the game without emotion. Rather, it means that if there is a disagreement, any discussion with game officials regarding that disagreement should be constructive and respectful, not confrontational. Handling any disagreement in a business- like manner teaches players good sportsmanship, which is a perennial focus of the NFHS.

By communicating respectfully, both game officials and coaches will leave with a positive experience. Neither game officials nor coaches do their jobs for the money; rather, they do it because of their love of the game. Through coaches’ and game officials’ behavior toward each other, players will learn a valuable life lesson regarding how to handle conflict.


A new, second exception to the intentional grounding rule has been added effective with the 2022 season.

Intentional grounding is a foul when a forward pass is thrown into an area not occupied by an eligible offensive receiver, or, when a forward pass is intentionally thrown incomplete to save loss of yardage or to conserve time. These acts are fouls in NFHS play with two exceptions:

• NFHS Rule 7-5-2 EXCEPTION 1. – It is legal for a player positioned directly behind the snapper to conserve time by intentionally throwing the ball forward to the ground immediately after receiving the snap that has neither been muffed nor touched the ground.

• NFHS Rule 7-5-2 EXCEPTION 2, (NEW) – It is legal for a player to conserve yardage by intentionally throwing an incomplete forward pass if:
a) The passer has been beyond the lateral boundary of the free-blocking zone as established at the snap; and
b) The pass reaches the neutral zone including the extension beyond the sideline.

The free-blocking zone, as determined at the snap, is 4 yards on each side of the football (3 yards in 6-, 8-, and 9-player) The referee can use the following guidelines to judge whether the passer has been beyond the lateral boundary of the free-blocking zone:

• If a passer moves at least three full steps laterally they have likely left the free- blocking zone.

• In normal splits, the inside foot of the tight end is in the free-blocking zone.
• The distance between a hash mark and the nearest goal post upright is 5 yards.
• The goal post uprights are almost 4 yards from the center of the field.
• By keeping these distances in mind, if the ball is spotted on a hash mark, on a goal post upright, or in the center of the field, then these become very convenient points of reference to assist in determining whether the passer was beyond the lateral boundary of the free-blocking zone.

Remember, if the passer has not met both requirements in EXCEPTION 2, it remains a foul if there was no eligible offensive receiver in the area, or, if an eligible offensive receiver in the area cannot make a bona-fide attempt to catch the forward pass (e.g., the forward pass is intentionally thrown to the ground short of an eligible offensive receiver, or the forward pass is intentionally thrown over an eligible offensive receiver’s head). Many game officials choose to ignore this foul if there is an eligible offensive receiver in the general area of the forward pass. However, if the referee judges the forward pass was intentionally thrown incomplete, it is a foul. This is a foul that requires good crew communication and could be called after the game officials have gathered and discussed the play, or could result in the referee rescinding a flag that was dropped at the time the pass was thrown should a game official have additional information to provide to the referee that could alter the ruling.

Knowledgeable game officials recognize that some passes are incomplete or do not arrive in the immediate vicinity of the eligible offensive receiver because of the lack of skill on the part of the passer, a broken pattern on the part of the intended eligible offensive receiver,
or because the passer’s accuracy was affected by the action of the defense. These game officials can also recognize an intentional and purposeful act and they can consistently and judiciously administer the rules so that the team whose passer purposely incompletes a pass is penalized as required. When a foul does occur, the penalty flag needs to be thrown by the referee. The penalty is 5 yards from the spot of the foul and loss of down.


• Passer in or outside of free-blocking zone.........outside
• Forward pass crossed the neutral zone or the neutral zone extended..........has crossed


Why is this important? One minute at the beginning of the game and one minute at the
end of the game are both 60 seconds. Factors impacting the time remaining in a game include: score, field position, available time-outs, injury and penalty timing, and an early season game against a state championship. When one or a number of these situations occur, the game can become time-sensitive and the number of seconds in a minute carry great importance. Not only will the game be on the line, but everyone will be watching the clock.

NFHS football rules have been put in place to protect the integrity of the game timing. These rules are designed to prevent a team from either using an excessive amount of time or unfairly conserving time. The key to working time-sensitive situations is to understand the environment, and communicate that understanding to the game officials, coaches and players.

Working in a time-sensitive environment requires a heightened sense of awareness. When there are natural breaks in the game, game officials should remind each other when these conditions may exist. Game officials should discuss special clock rules relating to game time, fouls and injuries. Coaches should be reminded of the number of remaining time-outs, and that the game officials will be looking to them for their use. Game officials should also keep both teams informed of when the game clock will be starting (on the ready-for-play or on the snap). Game officials must know when to hustle to get the ball spotted, and referees should maintain a consistent tempo when winding the clock after an awarded first down, usually six to eight seconds into the play clock. If time may expire during live play, the off-game official (first to complete dead ball officiating) should check the game clock to determine if time remains in the half. If there is a penalty or other clock stopping event, game officials need to know whether the half is over, there is time remaining on the game clock or whether there will be an untimed down.

So, why is all of this important? Being prepared for time-sensitive situations can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and multiple restless nights.


Except for the kickoffs starting each half, all others follow success or failure of teams on the previous series and are an opportunity to improve their position for subsequent play. During a kickoff, all 22 players are briefly moving the same direction (no kickoff shall start with more or less than 22 players), then heading toward each other at full speed eventually merging at a point of attack. Contact must be observed over the entire field while officials themselves are moving – a challenging task whether four-, five- or seven-crew members are present.

Successful coverage of kickoffs rests on a thorough pregame discussion. Depending on
the number of crew members used, specific assignments of free-kick lines, the legality of the kick, downfield areas or numbered kicking team members must be acknowledged. For the traditional deep kick, coverage of the goal line and pylons, downfield movement, return in or away from the game official’s position, clock starting and likely areas of illegal contact must be covered. Teams may prefer a shorter kick (referred to as a “pooch” kick) or they may execute a squib kick. Both types of kicks limit return options. A fair catch is a possible outcome of a pooch kick. Understanding of which game official has responsibility for the catch versus contact around the receiver must be discussed. The squib kick is quickly grounded and maintains the status of a kick and the officiating challenges of a loose ball. Illegal contact, first touching and ultimate possession require precise crew actions.

The onside kick is a unique challenge. Responsibility for the kick legality, free kick lines, first touching by Team K, contact – both who initiated and if legal – must be discussed because contact will occur quickly. Possession will be aggressively fought for. Quick and decisive movement, determination of possession and restraining of extra participants are needed.

Fouls on free kicks range from the dead ball (encroachment and illegal kicking formation), live-ball fouls where it is critical to determine if the foul occurred during the kick or after change of possession to correctly enforce and the most common – the free kick out of bounds untouched by Team R. Careful explanations of options to the offended sideline requires precise crew communication in offering possible enforcement scenarios.

With a thorough pregame discussion of free kick mechanics, rules and different kick scenarios, the crew will be better equipped to handle unusual circumstances that may arise.

2022 NFHS Points of Emphasis



Good sporting behavior is one of the fundamental ingredients to the continued success and enjoyment of education-based high school sports and activities. In fact, in the 103-year history of organized high school sports in the United States, good sportsmanship has been one of the most important outcomes of high school activity programs.

NFHS playing rules are written to encourage sportsmanship. Participation in these programs should promote respect, integrity and sportsmanship. However, for these ideals to occur, everyone involved in these programs must be doing their part.

The NFHS is concerned that unsporting behavior in education-based athletics has increased across all sports. As a result, the NFHS has made sportsmanship the No. 1 Point of Emphasis for the 2022-23 school year.

Sportsmanship, or good sporting behavior, is about treating one another with respect and exhibiting appropriate behavior. It is about being fair, honest and caring. When these types of appropriate behavior occur, competitive play is more enjoyable for everyone.

Coaches set the tone during football games with their display of sportsmanship. If these individuals act in a sportsmanlike manner, their behavior sets the tone for players, spectators and others. If coaches, however, are complaining constantly about the decision of game officials, spectators are more likely to do the same.

There must be a collaborative, working relationship between game officials and game administration to promote good sportsmanship and safely conduct the game. Everyone has their roles to play in creating a positive, sportsmanlike atmosphere at games.

Game officials should focus on the actions of players, coaches and other sideline personnel. A positive, open line of communication between game officials and coaches ultimately results in a better game for everyone involved.

Game officials, however, should never engage with spectators who are exhibiting unsporting behavior. Once the game begins, school administration is responsible for dealing with unruly spectators. A proactive approach by school administration includes monitoring the behavior of spectators and intervening as needed.

If spectators are using demeaning or profane language at game officials – or at others in the stands – those individuals should be removed from the game by school administration.

In recent years, a heightened level of unsportsmanlike behavior has been occurring by spectators at high school football games, and it must be stopped. The use of demeaning language, or hate speech, by students, parents and other fans must cease.

High school football and other activities exist to lift people up, not demean or tear people down. The goal is to treat everyone fairly and treat each other with respect. Any speech or harassment that is insulting, demeaning or hurtful will not be tolerated.

High schools must establish a culture that values the worth of every single person – both players on the school’s team and players on the opposing team. There must be a no-tolerance policy regarding behavior that shows disrespect for another individual.

Good sports win with humility, lose with grace and do both with dignity. It takes the efforts of everyone every day to ensure that sportsmanship remains one of the top priorities in education-based activity programs.

In providing an optimal experience to players, fans, coaches and game officials, the NFHS has continually made sportsmanship a priority. Players and coaches are the most visible exhibitors of good sportsmanship. The behavior of coaches and players sets the tone for fans, game officials and others. There is no place in scholastic sports for language that defames, demeans, abuses or bullies another competitor, teammate, game official or fan. Language of this nature should not be tolerated in the school building, at games or at practice. Education-based athletics, and specifically high school football, should serve as an example of how intense competition and civility can coexist.

Coaches and players must represent their schools and communities as ambassadors of good sporting behavior beginning with pregame activities and concluding with end-of-game procedures. Game officials are charged with enforcing NFHS football rules and penalizing unsportsmanlike behavior.

Communities are often defined by their treatment of, and interaction with, visiting teams and their fans. Foul language and inflammatory speech are not acceptable displays of sportsmanship and good sporting behavior.

Sportsmanship is a basic, vital component of education-based athletics. The lessons learned, humility, respect and integrity are the cornerstones of sportsmanship. Those lessons do not include the acceptance of profane or foul language. Those same lessons are forged and exhibited long before they are on display in the spotlight of the athletic arena. More importantly, they remain in place long after the final whistle of athletic competition.
Good sports make sportsmanship a priority.


The NFHS Football Rules Committee feels coaches, game officials and players have all worked together to recognize and remove most targeting fouls from the game, but considerable work still needs to be done understanding/penalizing illegal defenseless player contact. As stakeholders in the game, removing needless contact from football should be prioritized by coaches, game officials and players.

Targeting is an act by any player who takes aim and initiates contact against an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders. A defenseless player is a player, who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury. For added defenseless player clarification, please refer to 2.32.16 COMMENT in the 2022 NFHS Football Case Book.

Since defenseless players are especially vulnerable to potential injury, coaches should use video, on-field demonstrations, and establish zero tolerance of this illegal contact during practice and games to help players realize the importance of contacting players legally.

Game officials must have a clear understanding of the guidelines for defenseless player contact (Rule 9-4-3g). They must diligently observe all action and watch for illegal contact against players who are deemed defenseless. Any player contacting a defenseless player is responsible to make legal contact. Game officials must draw a distinction between contact necessary to make a legal block or tackle and that which is excessive. When there is a question in the game officials’ mind about the severity of contact, the contact should be deemed excessive.

Legal contact is required by players at all times. It is imperative that players have a clear understanding of what contact is acceptable and be able to recognize when players are considered defenseless. Players must realize that when contacting any player, the responsibility for making legal contact resides with the person making the contact. Forceful contact that is avoidable should be considered unnecessary.

To ensure the long-term success of high school football, risk minimization must remain
a priority for all stakeholders of the game. Coaches, game officials and players must understand the importance of removing unnecessary contact from the game. A concerted effort must be made by all to eliminate targeting and illegal defenseless player contact from football.


The purpose of the NFHS Football Equipment Rules is to ensure the safety and protection of both the player wearing the equipment and their opponent. Due to the potential for injury, it is essential that game officials strictly enforce equipment rules and that coaches support that enforcement.

The head coach is primarily responsible for the legality of a team’s equipment. Prior to the start of each game, the head coach must verify to the referee and another game official that all players are legally equipped in compliance with the rules and that no illegal equipment will be used. Most equipment violations can be prevented by the coaching staff communicating the equipment rules to players prior to the teams arriving at the game.

During pregame duties, game officials should take time to spot-check players for illegal or improperly worn equipment and alert players and coaching staffs of any potential violations. Game officials should not allow any players to participate until all equipment issues have been resolved.

Prior to the ball becoming live, game officials through normal observations should verify that each player is properly and legally equipped. If a player is observed to not meet proper equipment rules, the play clock should be stopped and the equipment violation addressed.

Different rules will apply to enforcement depending if the stoppage was for illegal, improperly worn or missing equipment.

Unless halftime or overtime intermission occurs, any time the play clock is interrupted for improperly worn or missing equipment by a player, the player is to be removed from
the game for at least one play. Examples of improperly worn equipment include but are not limited to: Knee pads that do not cover the player’s knees; shoulder pads that are not fully covered by the jersey; undershirts not tucked in that extend below the top of the waistline of the pants; and failure to wear a tooth or mouth protector. If any equipment becomes improperly worn during play, correction must be made before continued player participation is allowed. The player would not be required to be removed from the game if the repair can be made promptly and does not delay the ready for play by more than 25 seconds.

Any time a player is found participating with illegal equipment, the player is to be removed from the game and the head coach should be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Examples of illegal equipment include but are not limited to: Eye shade that is not a solid stroke or includes words, numbers, logos or other symbols; eye shields that are not clear (without the presence of any tint); play cards not worn on the wrist or arm; and uniform adornments (exemptions are legal towels and sweatbands properly worn).


Helmet Reconditioning - Updated

National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association

September 1, 2021

Dear Sir/Madam,

NAERA (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association), NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) and helmet manufacturers are informing you of reconditioning and recertification recommendations for football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets. NAERA recommends that during every football, lacrosse, baseball and softball season or practice period, every helmet should be cleaned and inspected regularly by a school or organization staff member with knowledge of manufacturer recommendations. We further recommend every helmet should be reconditioned and recertified annually unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer. ONLY a company licensed by NOCSAE can perform the recertification of football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets.  For a list of NAERA members that are licensed by NOCSAE please visit our web site  More information regarding NOCSAE and their standards can be found at

Reconditioning/Recertification and Sanitization Post Covid-19: NAERA recommends every football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmet be reconditioned and recertified prior to being issued to all athletes, unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer. NAERA further recommends that non recertifiable equipment, including but not limited to, football and lacrosse shoulder pads, chest protectors and shin guards be sanitized in accordance to manufacturer guidelines.

On January 1, 2017 NOCSAE put into effect standard ND 001 6.1.1 shown below.

ND 001 6.1.1. Helmets intended to be recertified shall have a recertification interval provided by the manufacturer. Certification life is limited to this time period. Helmets not recertified during the stated interval shall no longer be certified. Recertification interval required for warranty validation shall satisfy this requirement.

What does ND 001 6.1.1 mean for your school or organization? For Football helmets, as of this writing, the requirements from all football helmet manufacturers for recertification is a minimum of every other year. If you acquired new helmets in 2019 these helmets will need recertification per this standard for 2021 play.

Helmets that have a lapsed certification per NOCSAE DOC. 001 may be recertified under most conditions. Always ask your NAERA representative if you have doubts. Remember when your team Captain or Coach tells the official your team is legally equipped, you need to know that is correct and factual.

Every state association playing under NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rules has adopted the NOCSAE standards for football, lacrosse, baseball and softball helmets. Other state associations may have similar rules; however, most support the helmet manufactures recommendations.

Please make certain your school or organization is using a reconditioning company licensed by NOCSAE.


Tony Beam

Tony Beam, BA, E.S., CAA

Executive Director, NAERA


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

CPSC/CDC 4 Quarters of FB Helmet Safety Publication




1st Quarter: Profit Fit

Vision – Make sure your athlete’s eyes are visible and he can see straight forward and side to side.

Coverage – The front helmet pad should cover the athlete’s head from the middle of his forehead to the back of his head. The helmet should not sit too high or low. To check, make sure the ear holes line up with the athlete’s ears.

Chin strap – The chin strap should be centered under the athlete’s chin and fit snugly. Although no scientific research shows that mouth guards reduce the risk of concussion, athletes should wear a mouth guard to help prevent dental or facial injuries.

Fit —The helmet should “feel” snug with no gaps between the pads and the athlete’s head. The helmet should not slide on the head with the chin strap in place.

Why is the fit important? An improperly-fitted helmet can place an athlete at greater risk for injury.

Helmets help reduce the risk of severe brain injury and skull fracture, but NO helmet can prevent all concussions. There is no “concussion-proof” helmet and a helmet doesn’t make you invincible to other injuries. It is important to avoid hits to the head, even when wearing a helmet.


2nd Quarter:  Safer Play

Make sure that your athlete:

• Practices “Heads Up” football — never lowering his head during a hit or leading with his helmet;

• Uses proper techniques in blocking and tackling; and
• Follows the rules of play and practices good sportsmanship and self-control at all times.

Learn concussion signs and symptoms and how to respond. If you think an athlete has a concussion:

1. Immediately remove the athlete from play; and
2. Seek medical attention right away from a qualified and informed professional.

NEVER let an athlete return to play the day of the injury and until a qualified and informed health care professional says it’s OK. Although most athletes with concussion eventually recover, taking time to rest is the best way to make sure his brain recovers.

When in doubt, the athlete should sit out and have a player assessment performed. The athlete’s long-term health is more important than the outcome of a game.

Remember to teach athletes to play smart—these are their brains we’re talking about! It’s better to miss one game than the whole season.


3rd Quarter:  Care & Maintenance

Inspect your athlete’s helmet for damage.

• DO NOT allow your athlete to use a cracked or broken helmet.
• Check for missing or loose hardware.
• Check for proper inflation (for air bladder-equipped helmets).
• Clean the helmet inside and out with warm water and mild detergent regularly. • DO NOT soak any part of the helmet, expose it to extreme heat or use solvent or strong cleaning agents.

• DO NOT allow anyone to sit or lean on a helmet.

• A helmet should be stored in a temperature-controlled environment away from direct sunlight.

4th Quarter:  Reconditioning & Replacement

Helmets should be reconditioned and recertified periodically by a licensed NAERA-member.

• Helmets should have a label stating that they are NOCSAE or otherwise certified, as permitted by your league rules, showing the date of manufacture and the date they were reconditioned and recertified if not new.

• Helmets without a clearly visible date of manufacture should not be used.

• Disable and dispose of ALL helmets rejected by your NAERA reconditioner.

• Based on NAERA policy, helmets should be replaced no later than 10 years from date of manufacture. And many helmets may need to be replaced sooner, depending on wear and tear.


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Or contact the helmet’s manufacturer, your NAERA-certified helmet reconditioner or visit (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) or (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioning Association).


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

WIAA Adaptations to NFHS Rules -- Print and place in your rules book for reference. 

WIAA Overtime Procedure

The WIAA will continue using the Overtime Procedures used during previous years.  

New NCAA Overtime Procedures for 2021 will be monitored and reviewed during the NCAA season ahead. 



of the

Note: In the text that follows the word “inning” is used but alternate wording is given in the square brackets “[ ].”


The 25-yard line overtime procedure to resolve tied games adopted by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association for the 2011 football season and beyond incorporates elements of the NCAA tie breaker system modified to comply with football rules published by the National Federation of State High School Associations.


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 

WIAA Fall Football Acclimatization

Minimum Days of Practice/Acclimatization (from the WIAA Fall Reugations)