Football - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

High School Football Rules Changes  

High School Football Players with Improper Equipment Will Be Removed for One Down


INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 8, 2018) — Players in high school football who are detected with missing or improperly worn equipment during playing action will be removed from the game for at least one down, unless the improper equipment is directly attributable to a foul by the opponent.

This revision in Rule 1-5-5 and other related rules was one of five rules changes for the 2018 season recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 19-21 meeting in Indianapolis. All changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Rule 1-5-5 also states that if the player is wearing otherwise legal equipment in an illegal manner, the participant must also be replaced for one down. If proper and legal equipment has become improperly worn through use during the game, and prompt repair does not delay the ready-for-play signal for more than 25 seconds, the repair can be made without replacing the player for one down.

In a related change (1-5-4), the head coach is responsible for verifying that all players are legally equipped and will not use illegal equipment. The penalty provisions for any use of illegal equipment remain unchanged and result in an unsportsmanlike foul charged to the head coach.

“I commend the entire football rules committee for its thoroughness and focus on the state of the game of football,” said Todd Tharp, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. “The committee recognizes that the state of high school football focuses on risk minimization and the responsibility that coaches, players and game officials play in continuing to protect our student-athletes. By emphasizing that the coach is ultimately responsible for assuring his players are using legal equipment by issuing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for violations and that players will be removed for using legal equipment in an illegal manner, the committee continues to focus on minimizing risk for all players.”

The second rules change approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee provides another option for teams in Rule 6-1-9 on fouls committed by the kicking team during free kicks and scrimmage kicks. Now, the receiving team can accept a 5-yard penalty from the succeeding spot. The previous three options remain: accept a 5-yard penalty from the previous spot and have the kicking team re-kick, put the ball in play at the inbounds spot 25 yards beyond the previous spot, or decline the penalty and put the ball in play at the inbounds spot.

Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the NFHS Football Rules Committee, said this additional option was approved by the committee in an effort to reduce re-kicks, further minimize risks and ensure that appropriate penalties are in place for all fouls.

“The ability to ‘tack on’ penalty yardage on free kicks will potentially reduce the amount of repeated free kicks,” Tharp said. “In addition, this rule change is consistent with NFHS rules that no foul should go unpenalized.” 

The third change approved by the committee was a revision related to the examples of a defenseless player. In Rule 2-32-16a, the committee clarified that defenseless player provisions do not apply to a passer until a legal forward pass is thrown. The passer continues to be a defenseless player until the pass ends or the passer moves to participate in the play.

The committee also changed the signal for free-kick infractions, other than encroachment of the neutral zone, from Signal 18 to Signal 19.

The final change approved by the NFHS Football Rules Committee concerned six-player football in Rule 3. The timing rule between periods and intermission for six-player football has been standardized to match the current NFHS rules for 8-player, 9-player and 11-player football.

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 2016-17 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, football is the most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 1,057,407 participants in 11-player football. Another combined 29,341 boys participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football. In addition, 2,115 girls participated in one of the four football offerings during the 2016 season.

 2018 NFHS FOOTBALL RULES CHANGES 

1-5-4, 1-5-5, 3-5-10e (NEW) 3-6-2, 9-9: Improperly equipped player shall be replaced for at least one down. 

Rationale: Prior to the game, the head coach is responsible for verifying that the players are legally equipped and will not use illegal equipment. The penalty for a player who is not properly equipped has changed from a distance penalty against the team to removal of that player for at least one down. The penalty provisions for any use of illegal equipment remain unchanged and result in an unsportsmanlike conduct foul charged to the head coach. 

2-32-16a: Defenseless player provisions for passer clarified. 

Rationale: The committee clarified that defenseless player provisions do not apply to a passer until a legal forward pass is thrown. The passer continues to be a defenseless player until the pass ends or the passer moves to participate in the play. 

6-1-3b PENALTY, 6-1-4 PENALTY: Signal change for free kick infractions. 

Rationale: The signal for free kick infractions, other than encroachment of the neutral zone, has been changed from signal 18 to signal 19. 

6-1-9b (NEW), 6-1-9b PENALTY (NEW), 10-4-2 NOTE (NEW), 10-5-1j (NEW): New penalty option adopted for fouls by kicking team. 

Rationale: In an effort to reduce re-kicks, further minimize risk and ensure that appropriate penalties are in place for all fouls, the committee has added an option for fouls committed by the kicking team during free and scrimmage kicks. The change would allow the receiving team all of the previous options as well as accepting the distance penalty at the end of the down. 

SIX-PLAYER FOOTBALL (RULE 3): Length of time between periods revised. 

Rationale: The timing rule between periods and intermission for six player football has been standardized to match the current NFHS 8-, 9- and 11-player football rules. 

2018 EDITORIAL CHANGES 

1-3-7; 3-4-2c; 7-2-5b(1) EXCEPTION; 9-5-1h; 10-4-7; PENALTY SUMMARY; NFHS OFFICIAL FOOTBALL SIGNALS; INDEX. 

2018 POINTS OF EMPHASIS 

1. Proper Wearing and Use of Required Equipment 

2. Blindside Blocks and Defenseless Player 

3. Application of Personal Fouls and Unsportsmanlike Conduct 

4. Time Management 

**As of February 7, 2018 


(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 (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


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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