NFHS implements new rule changes

In January, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee introduced three additional rules that will be implemented starting next season:All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors, according to NFHS press release.
This is a follow-up to last year’s rules change that requires players to sit out one play if their helmet comes off while the play is ongoing.

1. An illegal personal contact foul was added so that “no player or nonplayer shall initiate contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off.”

Moreover,  illegal participation is constituted “for a player whose helmet comes completely off during a down to continue to participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged.”

“With its continued focus on risk minimization, the committee determined that a helmet-less player shall not block, tackle or otherwise participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged when the helmet came completely off,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine. “The penalty would be a live-ball, basic-spot foul.”

2. The committee also added language in the rulebook that states if the helmet comes off during the down or subsequent dead-ball action related to the down, and is not directly attributable to a foul by the opponent, the player is required to exit the game for at least one down.  This is be followed by an official’s timeout.

“Player safety has been and will continue to be the top priority for members of the NFHS Football Rules Committee,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association. “These rules changes regarding helmet-less players are more examples of the group’s commitment to minimize risk within the game.”

3. Finally, there will be noticeable reduction in the yardage rewarded for pass interference. While the 15-yard penalty will remain on offense and defense, the loss of down has been removed for offensive pass interference and the automatic first down has been eliminated for defensive pass interference.

“Offensive and defensive pass interference and the penalty structure related to these fouls has been debated many times in recent years,” Garrett said. “Proposals that either deleted the loss of down or the automatic first down – but not both – failed to gain support among committee members. The proposal to eliminate both components, thus not upsetting the balance between offense and defense, was the key factor in the adoption of the new rule.”


  • Expanded use of communication devices in specific situations for coaches, players and nonplayers during “authorized” conferences outside the nine-yard marks, on the sidelines and during halftime intermission. Oh darn, I  was hoping quarterbacks would be allowed to carry smartphones onto the field and receive play calls via text….
  • The committee clarified the rule approved last year regarding the definition of a catch, which stated that a receiver is required to establish possession of the ball and contact the ground inbounds while maintaining possession – regardless of the opponent’s action. 

“The committee clarified the definition of a catch such that an airborne player who has forward progress stopped inbounds and is carried out of bounds by an opponent before contacting the ground is awarded a catch at the spot of forward progress,” Colgate said.

  • The committee added another provision to the rule enacted last year regarding contact by the kicking team against members of the receiving team. The new provision stipulates that the kicking team may initiate contact once the receiving team has initiated a block within the neutral zone. …
  • The committee also approved the addition of a 15-yard penalty to the existing option of accepting an awarded fair catch for kick-catch interference. 
  • Finally,the committee clarified that the touchdown scoring team is the only team that can score on a try and the committee modified the rule regarding the wearing of towels
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About mattsmith

Matt Smith is an award-winning local sports writer for the Delaware County Times. A Delco native, Matt's covered local, pro and college sports at the Delco Times since 2006. In 2013, he won a Pennsylvania Keystone Press Award for Best Sports Coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith

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