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Behind the Stripes: Rules Changes to be aware of this football season

08/01/2018, 11:00am CDT
By B.J. Ligocki, Special to WSN

"Behind the Stripes" is written by veteran WIAA official B.J. Ligocki, an active message board poster who has helped many people on the forum with rules questions and clarifications over the years. The purpose of this feature is to help educate readers on any rules changes, clarify procedures and rules, provide case studies and examples, and answer any questions people may have on officiating or rules.

Feel free to email any rules or officiating questions you have at for inclusion in future articles.

B.J. Ligocki:  Football (Master Level - 12 yrs - State Championship); Basketball (Level 5 -20 years - Regional); Baseball/Softball (Level 5 - 20 years - Regional)

Football is fast approaching and with the new season comes a few new rule changes from the NFHS. The past couple years have seen some significant changes, mostly pertaining to player safety, but this year the updates were relatively minor.

Prior to this year, the penalty for a player not being legally equipped (ie missing pads, illegal head covering, jewelry, etc.) was a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the head coach. This was done because the coach verifies that all his players are properly equipped in the pregame meeting. Since 15 yards is a harsh penalty, this was a rarely enforced. Because we want everyone to be safely equipped, this year any player not properly equipped will have to leave play for at least one down, similar to having their helmet come off. Using illegal equipment is still an unsportsmanlike foul on the head coach (sticky gloves, wrong sized tee, unapproved ball, etc).

There were two minor changes dealing with the definition of a passer being clarified with regards to a defenseless player and a signal change from the encroachment signal to the illegal formation signal on kicking formation fouls.

The final change deals with how penalties are enforced against the kicking team for fouls during the kick on kickoffs and punts/field goals. The new enforcement allows the receiving team to tack on the penalty to the result of the play instead of declining or replaying the down. For example Team-A punts from the 50 and Team-B returns the ball to the Team-A 20 yard line. During the kick a Team-A player holds a Team-B player trying to block the punt. Prior to this change, Team-B would have to either take the result of the play or have Team-A back up and re-kick, negating a great return. This year Team-B can take the 10 yards at the end of the kick. This will also require fewer kicking plays (because of the fewer re-kicks) on which safety concerns are higher.

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