NFHS announces additions, changes in football rules

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2017

Before the 2017-18 high school football season begins in the Magnolia State, the National Federation of State High School Associations made a few adjustments to six rules and added five, ranging from better protection for athletes to implementing proper home game jersey specifications.

A Mississippi High School Activities Association release states that NFHS added a new definition for a blindside block along with specifications of the penalty.

The NFHS’s definition of a blindside block is “a block involving contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone.”

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The NFHS committee also adopted a new definition for a pop-up kick and the penalty that goes along with the act as well. The definition reads, “A pop-up kick is a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee. Such kicks will be penalized as a dead-ball free-kick infraction.”

For time management purposes, the MHSAA release states that the NFHS has added a new option for the fouled team to choose whether to start the clock on the snap after an accepted penalty inside the final two minutes of either half. During this time, the referee will still have the authority to start or stop the clock if it seems a team is attempting to run out the clock or conserve time illegally.

The next new rule implemented by the NFHS is to remove all commercial advertising from the game balls. The only permissible items on game balls include the ball’s manufacturer name or logo; school name, logo and mascot, state association name and logo; conference name and logo; and NFHS name and logo, according to the MHSAA release.

The final rule added for the upcoming season includes the rare circumstance of when an athlete’s prosthetic limb becomes detached from the runner. When such an incident occurs, the ball will be declared dead at the time the prosthetic limb falls.

Along with the additions to the NFHS rulebook, the committee also made a few tweaks to other rules, the first involving jerseys.

The NFHS rule provides additional clarification regarding the recent trend of using lighter shades for home game jerseys. Now, the rule is that home teams shall be a dark color to clearly contrast the white jersey worn by visiting teams. This rule will not be effective until 2021 to allow schools and manufacturers time to ensure the equipment follows the legal specifications, the release states.

Also, game officials are now permitted to participate in the required pre-game equipment verification along with the referee and head coach.

Some changes to the rules concerning penalties were made, including encroachment. Now, if a defensive player strikes the ball or the snapper’s hand/arm prior to the snap, they will be penalized for encroachment.

Another change expands the definition of a defenseless player. The release states that the committee has officially adopted specific examples of a defenseless player, which aims to minimize risk. This required change came to the committee’s attention through requests from participating coaches, game officials and state association representatives on the annual NFHS football rules questionnaire.

Non-contact face guarding is officially removed from pass interference restrictions, which eliminates the previous foul for non-contact face guarding forward-pass interference, the release states.

The last rule changed by the NFHS includes adding clarification to illegal participation fouls during kickoffs. As stated by the NFHS, “Illegal participation fouls by the receiving team occurring during the kick are now enforced under post-scrimmage kick fouls. Illegal substitution and illegal participation fouls by the receiving team occurring at the snap continue to be enforced from the previous spot.”

Besides the additions and changes to the rules, the NFHS also announced intent to put extra emphasis on player and coaching staff conduct during the upcoming season. These points of emphasis include, putting responsibility on players to avoid illegal contact, avoiding illegal helmet contact, practicing sideline management and control, utilizing professional communication between coaches and game officials and ensuring the proper enforcement of penalties for violations of the equipment rules.