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NFHS approves rule changes for high school football

February 8, 2018 / Football
High school football players found with missing or improperly worn equipment while on the field will be removed from the game for at least one down, unless the improper equipment is attributed 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.”

Other changes

• Related to 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.

• A revision 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 changed the signal for free-kick infractions, other than encroachment of the neutral zone, from Signal 18 to Signal 19.

• The final change 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.

No play clock, replay

During January’s American Football Coaches Association Convention, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine Bob Colgate said the rules committee would review 47 proposals during its annual meeting. Among them were using instant replay and implementing a play clock.

Evidently, both proposals were rejected, but there’s no word on whether the vote was close. Both issues have been a topic of debate in recent years, especially instant replay. Georgia lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would require high school football to use replay in postseason games, even though the mandate would go against NFHS’s current rules.

Click here for more detail on the NFHS’s latest changes.


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