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From the National Federation of State High School Associations

NFHS Expands Definition Of 'Unnecessary Roughness' in Football To Include Contact With Defenseless Receiver

One of 6 rule changes adopted for 2015 football season

In its ongoing effort to minimize the risk of injury in high school football, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee has expanded the penalty on unnecessary roughness to include contact with a defenseless player, one of six changes to the 2015 football rules the committee recommended and subsequently adopted by the NFHS Board.

Football official watching action

The revised Rule 9-4-3g  will now read, “No player or non-player shall make any contact with an opponent, including a defenseless player, which is deemed unnecessary or excessive and which incites roughness.”

Commenting on the change, Bob Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the NFHS and editor of the NFHS football rules, said the revised rule would apply, for example, when a defensive player not in the vicinity of the ball was “blindsided” by a blocker on the offensive team.

Spearing rule revised

Another change with a focus on risk minimization is a revision of the spearing rule – one of several examples of illegal helmet contact listed in Rule 2-20.

Spearing is now defined as “an act by any player who initiates contact against an opponent at the shoulders or below with the crown (top portion) of his helmet.”

With “targeting” now defined as contact to an opponent above the shoulders, the committee more clearly defined “spearing” as contact to an opponent at the shoulders or below. Colgate said the implementation of the first spearing rule in 1971 has played a significant role in reducing injury in high school football.

“The committee spent considerable time discussing and clarifying expectations related to contact involving any player that is deemed excessive or unnecessary – including spearing – that may occur during play,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.  “Minimizing risks to players involved in these situations must remain at the forefront of the game.”

Other rule changes

In other changes, the rules committee revised the 2014 rule change regarding free-kick formations, adding a new rule (Rule 6-1-4) providing that the timing of the foul for not having at least four players on each side of the kicker will now occurs when the ball is kicked.

A change also was made in the listing of penalties in Rule 9-4, Illegal Personal Contact. Beginning next season, an automatic first down will not be awarded for a 5-yard incidental face mask penalty against the passer. Previously, this violation was included in the penalty for roughing the passer, which calls for a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

The rules committee also approved new language in Rule 10-2-5 regarding the enforcement of dead-ball fouls. The distance penalty for unsportsmanlike, non-player or dead-ball personal fouls committed by teams can offset. Equal numbers of 15-yard penalties by both teams will cancel and remaining penalties may be enforced.

The final change approved by the Football Rules Committee related to a series of downs. A new Rule 5-1-1b will read as follows: “The referee shall have authority to correct the number of the next down prior to a new series of downs being awarded.”

A complete listing of all rules changes is 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 2013-14 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, football is the most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 1,093,234 participants in 11-player football. Another 28,790 boys participated in 6-, 8- and 9-player football. In addition, 1,828 girls participated in football during the 2013-14 season.

Source: National Federation of State High School Associations