Football - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

High School Football Rules Changes  

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 22, 2017) — New rules on blindside blocking are the most recent steps taken by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee in minimizing the risks associated with the sport.

The establishment of a new definition of a blindside block in Rule 2-3-10 and the addition of Rule 9-4-3n prohibiting a blindside block were two of 11 rules changes recommended by the NFHS Football Rules Committee at its January 20-22 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“The NFHS Football Rules Committee’s actions this year once again addressed risk minimization, officiating, competitive balance and game administration,” said Bob Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the NFHS and staff liaison for football.

The definition of a blindside block established by the committee is “a block against an opponent other than the runner, who does not see the blocker approaching,” and now results in a 15-yard penalty.

The committee stated that the blindside block “involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.”

“As has been the case for many years, the NFHS Football Rules Committee continued to place their main emphasis on risk minimization,” said Todd Tharp, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. “With this new definition of a blindside block and the penalty to be assessed, the committee stresses the importance of proper coaching techniques under the rules and accurate enforcement by the game officials.”

Another significant risk-minimization change was elimination of a pop-up kick in new Rule 6-1-11. A new definition of a pop-up kick in Rule 2-24-10 is defined as “a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee.”

The committee implemented this change in an effort to reduce risk of injury due to the increased use of the pop-up kick on onside kickoffs. Such kicks will be penalized as a dead-ball free-kick infraction, as noted with new Rule 6-1-11 PENALTY.

The NFHS Football Rules Committee also expanded Rule 2-32-16 regarding a defenseless player by adding specific examples of a defenseless player. Those examples include, but are not limited to:

  1. A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;
  2. A receiver attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner;
  3. The intended receiver of a pass in the action during and immediately following an interception or potential interception;
  4. A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;
  5. A kickoff or punt returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier;
  6. A player on the ground including a ball carrier who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first;
  7. A player obviously out of the play or not in the immediate vicinity of the runner; and
  8. A player who received a blindside block with forceful contact not initiated with open hands.

“A great deal of time was spent by the committee creating specific criteria to define exactly what a defenseless player is,” Tharp said. “Coaches can use these examples to focus on the proper mechanics of blocking and tackling, and game officials now are able to use this expanded definition to focus on continued risk minimization of the players.”

Changes to Rule 7-1-6 expand on the situations required for encroachment to occur after the ready-for-play and after the snapper has placed his hand(s) on the ball. The rule previously stated that encroachment occurred if “any other player breaks the plane of the neutral zone.” In addition, now defensive players are restricted from contacting the ball prior to the end of the snap or making contact with the snapper’s hand(s) or arm(s) until the snapper has released the ball.

The remaining changes approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee touched on a new ball specification (1-3-1h), uniforms [(1-5-1b(3)], game officials (1-5-4), post-scrimmage kick fouls (2-16-2h), penalty time clock management (3-4-7), prosthetic limbs (4-2-2l) and forward-pass interference (7-5-10), in which the previous foul for non-contact face guarding was eliminated as forward-pass interference.

Regarding the uniform change in Rule 1-5-1b(3), effective with the 2021 season, “the jerseys of the home team shall be a dark color that clearly contrasts to white.” 

“The committee revised the rule to provide schools and manufacturers more clarification regarding the game’s current trend of utilizing lighter gray shades,” Colgate said. “The requirement for teams to wear contrasting colors to white is not a new rule, and it is the committee’s expectation that this new clarification will allow changes to be made during normal replacement cycles.”

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available soon 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 2015-16 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, football is the most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 1,083,308 participants in 11-player football. Another combined 28,943 boys participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football. In addition, 2,140 girls participated in one of the four football offerings during the 2015 season.

This press release was written by Cody Porter, graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department.


Comments on the Rule Changes

1-3-1h (NEW):  Added that commercial advertising is not permitted on the ball.

Rationale:  The ball cannot have commercial advertising added to the surface. The only permissible items on the ball are the ball manufacturer’s name and/or logo; school name, logo and/or mascot; conference name and/or logo; state association name and/or logos; and NFHS name and/or logos.

1-5-1b(3):  Further clarifies that the jersey of the home team shall be a dark color clearly contrasting to the white jersey required for the visiting team.

Rationale:  Home game jersey specifications were further revised to provide schools and manufacturers additional clarification regarding the current trend of utilizing lighter gray shades. The implementation date of 2021 affords schools and manufacturers the opportunity to ensure that newer dark jerseys will clearly contrast with white. The requirement for contrasting colors to white is not a new rule, and this new clarification will allow changes to be made during normal replacement cycles.

1-5-1a(2) NOTE, 1-5-4:  This change nowpermits any of the game officials to accompany the referee to meet with the head coachfor equipment verification.

Rationale:  Member state associations may determine the game official who is to accompany the referee during the required pre-game meeting with each head coach.

2-3-10 (NEW), 9-4-3n (NEW), 9-4 PENALTY:  Added a new definition for a blindside block and specifies a penalty for an illegal blindside block.

Rationale:  Continuing with the focus on risk minimization, the committee created a definition for a blindside block. This block involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.

2-16-2h:  Clarified that illegal participation fouls by R occurring during the kick are now enforced under post-scrimmage kick fouls.

Rationale:  Illegal participation fouls by R occurring during the kick are now enforced under post-scrimmage kick fouls. Illegal substitution and illegal participation fouls by R occurring at the snap continue to be enforced from the previous spot.

2-24-10 (NEW), 6-1-11 (NEW), 6-1 PENALTY:  Added a new definition for a pop-up kick and specifies a penalty for a pop-up kick.

Rationale:  Continuing with the committee’s efforts to minimize risk, a pop-up kickoff has been defined. A pop-up kick is a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee. Such kicks will be penalized as a dead-ball free-kick infraction.

2-32-16:  Expands the definition of a defenseless player by incorporating specific examples.

Rationale:  The committee adopted specific examples of a defenseless player. By adding these examples, the committee continues to focus on risk minimization and responded to requests on the annual NFHS football rules questionnaire from participating coaches, game officials and state association representatives.

3-4-7 (NEW):  Added a new option to the offended team to start the clock on the snap for an accepted penalty inside the last two minutes of either half.

Rationale:  The committee added an option for the offended team on an accepted penalty inside the last two minutes of either half. The referee continues to have the authority to start or stop the clock if a team attempts to conserve or consume time illegally.

4-2-2l (NEW):  Specifies that the ball is declared dead if a prosthetic limb comes completely off of the runner.

Rationale:  With this change, the ball becomes dead when a prosthetic limb comes completely off of the runner.

7-1-6:  Now stipulates that it is encroachment to strike the ball or the snapper’s hand/arm prior to the snapper releasing the ball.

Rationale:  Defensive players are restricted from contacting the ball or the snapper’s hand(s) or arm(s) until the snapper has released the ball.

7-5-10:  Removes non-contact face guarding from the pass interference restrictions.

Rationale:  This change eliminates the previous foul for non-contact face guarding forward-pass interference.

 

2017 EDITORIAL CHANGES

Facilities Statement; 1-3-2; 1-5-1a(1); 1-5-1a(2) NOTE; 1-5-2b; 1-5-3b(6); 1-5-3c(2); 1-6-1; 1-6-2; 2-5-3; 3-4-8; 3-5-7f; 3-5-10b; 3-5-10c; 4-2-2k; 7-5-6a; 9-3 PENALTY; 9-4-3k; 10-5-1c; FOOTBALL FUNDAMENTALS – VI-2; PENALTY SUMMARY; INDEX.

(NFHS Football Rule Book, pages 90-93.)

2017 POINTS OF EMPHASIS

  1. Responsibility on Players to Avoid Illegal Contact
  2. Illegal Helmet Contact
  3. Sideline Management and Control, Professional Communication Between Coaches and Game Officials
  4. Proper Enforcement of Penalties for Violations of the Equipment Rules

On NFHS Web Site, Click HERE.

NFHS FOOTBALL JERSEY RULES

(March 2017)

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 the jersey 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:

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


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.

NFHS Information


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


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

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.

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.

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

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.

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)

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