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The issue of whether an act is a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct continues to be debated. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this with various experts at several levels around the country and I’d like to share with you a consolidation of all the thoughts I’ve collected.


First, I’d like to point that this distinction is not a mere technicality for jail house lawyers and brewery debate. Two USC fouls by the same individual result in ejection by rule while two personal fouls do not necessarily result in ejection. Neither penalty includes an automatic first down so that is not a factor. Either type of foul may be judged to be flagrant with immediate ejection and that is a judgment we must make. Racial taunting is a flagrant unsportsmanlike act while vicious contact after the ball is dead, as well as fighting, is a flagrant personal foul. In the end, you must decide whether an act is flagrant and no one will question your judgment in that regard.


Generally speaking, personal fouls involve contact while unsportsmanlike fouls do not. There is a gray area in between and the possibility of a multi-faceted foul. If any unsportsmanlike elements are present or there is any question as to which type of foul has occurred, it is best to call it unsportsmanlike unless fighting occurs. An example of the former case would be a player who shouts obscenities at an opponent and then shoves him. That would be an unsportsmanlike act even though there was physical contact. If a player shouts obscenities and then swings at or punches the opponent, that is fighting and ejection is immediate.


The gray areas are most likely to involve the ball. Throwing the ball at and hitting an opponent (either directly or on the rebound) involves contact but that is not contact by the perpetrator’s body so that should be called unsportsmanlike. Spitting at an opponent would also be unsportsmanlike.


These types of acts almost always involve retaliation. The biggest challenge is to see everything and not just the retaliation. Dead-ball officiating begins immediately when the ball becomes dead. That should trigger about three seconds of vigilance and intense observation – that’s all it takes.


Gary and I met with Harry yesterday who mentioned that ejections at this point in the season are higher than they were at the same point last year. That doesn’t mean officials are doing anything wrong or anything different, but it’s worth talking about. Please consider this a follow-up to what was said earlier about coaches conduct. If part of the increase is due to cracking down on coaches who have been used to a free ride, then so be it. It would have to happen sooner or later. What’s important is that we be consistent so that a coach doesn’t get treated differently on the road than at home. Beware of insecure officials who let things go because they fear being blackballed. If an official is fair and polite in enforcing conduct rules, he should have nothing to fear.

I’d also like to mention our few officials of the shot gun mentality.  They over react with the flag and sometimes try to undo their quick trigger by withdrawing an ejection. We simply cannot do that. Each official has equal authority by rule to DQ a participant and no one is suggesting we modify that. However, all ejections should be discussed as a crew with the referee before being announced. We have five guys out there and more than one is likely to have had a view. Sometimes “punches” are simply a push off of the instigator, etc.. We also want to make sure we catch all culprits and treat them equally.


Finally, I’d like to address the technique of administratively removing a player from a game. Please don’t do that; there is no rules support for doing that.


Here are some guidelines:

                -If a coach asks to be told about problem players, then by all means do that. How the coach handles it,  is then his business and you have been helpful in providing an informal warning.

                - If a coach doesn’t request to be told about brewing problems, it is still good preventive officiating to do so. You may suggest (sometimes even request) that a player be removed until he cools off, but PLEASE don’t direct it. Once a player is ejected, explain what he did to the coach and get his name right then and there.


Don’t wait until the end or halftime. Submit your report the next day. Also, please make sure you got the right guy.


The vast majority of coaches are responsible professionals. If you politely bring a problem to their attention, they will deal with it properly.


It has been reported that we’ve been inconsistent in administering the penalty for kickoffs (free kicks) that go out of bounds. The A-6 rules do not contain any exception to 6-1-2. Consequently, the three options are identical as those for 11-man football. The third option is for the receiving team to put the ball in play 25 yards from the previous spot. A normal kickoff is from K’s 30 yard line. Thus, the third option would place the ball at R’s 25 yard line.


Please emphasize this with your A-6 crews.


  • •1-      The punt was blocked and the ball retrieved by the punter who ran briefly and punted again. That is legal. There is no limit on the number of punts per down. The only requirement is the punt be made from behind the line before any change of team possession (6-2-1). A second punt does not have to be by the same player who made the first kick.
  • •2-      The punt was blocked and the ball retrieved by the punter who thought the play was over and tossed it backward to the Referee who at first caught it and then intentionally dropped it as he recognized it was a live ball.  A member of the receiving team eventually picked up the ball and ran for 30 yards. The hard part was explaining all that to the coaches.
  • •3-      The punt was short and everyone steered clear of the ball. The punter ran to it and kicked it further downfield where it went OOB. That was an illegal kick during a loose-ball play. The basic spot is behind the spot of the foul, so 15 yards from the previous spot and replay the down or Team R gets the ball where it went OOB (which they didn’t want).
  • •4-      A 48-yard FG attempt only made it the middle of the EZ where it was caught by R and returned. Neither official at the post reacted to the play. The runner made it to around the 20 before someone blew a whistle. In the end, they ended up getting it right by declaring a TB. It’s a good thing bno one got hurt on the return.

Do you find it odd that all these are on kick plays? Kick plays have uniques rules that should be frequently reviewed.


I’ve seen several game reports that describe boorish behavior by coaches. On one hand, I’m pleased to receive the feedback; it’s good information to pass on to future crews “forewarned is forearmed.” The flip side is I should be reading a lot of that stuff in an ejection report rather than just a game report. We are tolerating too much and in many cases, it just encourages more rhetoric and makes it more difficult down the road. Who wants to be the bad guy that comes in and punishes what has been previously allowed?


I’m not saying we need to be grouches who growl at coaches and flag every word, but we do need to redraw the line - together. We can’t give you a “do this,” don’t do that” list. Every coach is different. Every game is different. Genuine, sporadic emotion and passion is okay. Snide remarks, insults and criticisms need to be addressed. If someone calls out “holding”, they have violated Rule 9-8-1b and have attempted to influence an official. Only the most sensitive, insecure official would react to one occurrence of that. No one can tell you how much to listen to, but don’t let a pattern develop. Nor is it likely a flag is immediately necessary. In most cases a polite discussion with the coach will end it. In some cases, they just don’t realize they are violating a rule.


I think it’s also import to distinguish between sideline banter and announcements to the world. We don’t want the wing officials to have rabbit ears. In most cases, we don’t care what they say in the team box just like we don’t care about the huddle. As long as they are not discussing a criminal act like maiming somebody, we shouldn’t hear it. When it can be heard out in the middle of field or in the stands, etc. it tends to create an environment of disrespect and it needs to be shut down. Sometimes you just have to use the flag to get the message across.

We’ve known this has been an issue and addressed in the master clinics. I can’t gage whether we are status quo or getting worse. It likely varies by Area. It might actually be getting better in your Area. You have to be the judge and you have to deal with it. We are not going to change much overnight, but we need to talk about it and talk about it again until we get everyone working together on this.



Here are some happenings from this weekend.

  • With two minutes remaining in the game, the visitors scored a TD to make it Home 21-20. On the try they were called for OPI. A 15-yard penalty was assessed and the ready was blown before the referee recognized the penalty included loss of down and the try was not to be replayed. In the end, the play was officiated properly but great consternation resulted.
  • On a FG attempt, the defense pointed out to the Umpire that the kicker did not have thigh or knee pads. The Umpire correctly (1.5.1G) sent the player to get the pads. The pads were not readily available so the coach took a timeout. The referee then refused to allow the player to return stating he had to stay out for one play. There is no such rule; the player was not injured.
  • On kick catching interference, the 15-yard penalty was enforced from the spot of the foul. If a 15-yard penalty is accepted, it is enforced from the previous spot and the down is replayed. Another option is to award a fair catch at the spot of the foul which may be a different spot than where the play ends. The penalty can be declined allowing the results of the play to stand.


I got a chance to watch some games this weekend and what I saw was generally good. Here are a few things you might find worthwhile.

•1-      Officials seem to throw the beanbag when they could simply run to the correct yard line and drop it. It’s not necessary to get the actual spot, the yard line is good enough.  On a punt where a fair catch was made, a BJ threw the beanbag from 10 yards away missing the spot by two yards. He then was able to run to the correct DB spot and stop the clock. A bean bag is not necessary when the end of the kick is the DB spot.

•2-      At the end of 1Q and 3Q, linesmen are moving the chains before R and U can write down the correct info. L should wait for R’s signal to move.

•3-      A very unusual scenario occurred on a punt OOB. The punt went OOB in the EZ. The L only ran to the pylon and started back. When R saw that, he gave the TB signal. The L took that to be his “chop” and stopped at the five yard line. U spotted the ball there. It all got straightened out when R got down there, but it looked awkward. Probably the best way to handle this would have been for R to immediately run down to the 20.

•4-      The NFL TB signal is different than the HS/NCAA signal. We should use the correct signal which is just like a valid fair catch signal.


Last night there was an accidental collision between an official and a player which was flagged. As it turned out, the collision occurred after the ball was dead. A punt had gone OOB on that sideline and the official was running downfield to have R chop the spot. The players were entering and leaving the field at the same time. The flag was picked up; the restricted area applies only while the ball is live.

Nonetheless, this is a tricky interval and everyone needs to be careful. Both player and official were doing what they are supposed to be doing. There is not a good fix and it’s not an uncommon scenario. Thankfully, no one was hurt



Situation #1

Here is a play from a JHS game with a lesson that applies to all levels.


On a 2-point try in a very close game (it ended 28-26), the slot back beat the snap and R flagged it for illegal motion. The runner was stuffed up the middle and the penalty was obviously declined. The coach was very knowledgeable and argued it was a dead-ball foul and he was entitled to a replay.

It is so much simpler when there is no play. With the play having run and the coach’s protest, R had a dilemma.


A-     Changing the call would be “getting it right.” While it was illegal motion by rule, it was also a false start.

B-      Changing the call would allow the offense to gain an advantage by benefitting from a foul of theirs that had nothing  to do with the play.



What would you do? If A, what is your reply to the coach?


I’d like to hear some answers, but more importantly, this would be a worthwhile discussion at a meeting.

Situation #2

We recently had a situation with a mix-up on downs and it resulted in a coach ejection. I am not condoning the coach’s behavior, but the situation was totally avoidable.

It’s unclear as to how or exactly when the officials got disconnected on the correct down, but we do know that fourth down was played with third down on the box and two officials believing it was third down. To make matters worse, the visiting coach sensed a down discrepancy and asked the L to confirm the down. The L replied third down without double checking. After the play, the issue was again raised and the play sequence was reviewed and it was determined that fourth down had been played. At that point the referee had no choice but to award the ball to Team B (home team), which he did.

While it could be said that the officials got it “right” because neither team got an extra down nor was shorted a down, it’s likely every member of the crew either erred or could have done better. There simply is no excuse for failing to check the down after every play. The LJ is looking directly at the box and he needs to check it at the ready. That is the time to fix it. If the error is not caught until just before the snap, it’s not always necessary to stop play to fix the box, but if it’s a 3 v. 4 issue, it’s probably a good idea to do so.

Down errors are most likely to occur in the following situations:

  • 1-      A loss of down penalty
  • 2-      A dead-ball foul is declared after the play has been allowed to start.

If you have others, please share them.


I’ve been asked about an official who has been using his iPod for the coin flip. There are several types of smart phones that have a coin app. While that works just as well as a coin, please ask everyone to use a coin. Years from now the coin may very well be obsolete. There is no need to make a big deal over this, but officials should not have electronic devices on the field. We had an issue in baseball with an umpire who was allegedly texting during a game.


We have worked very hard to get consistent mechanics state wide for high visibility situations. Tom spoke eloquently on this subject at several of the regional clinics.  We need every assn and every crew to cooperate on this. We recently had a TV game where the crew employed non-standard mechanics. That crew has been placed on restriction and may not be approved to work a playoff game, especially if there is a repeat occurrence.

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