A significant update to Rule 10 in the NFHS Football Rules Book will remove the excessive penalty enforcement for offensive fouls happening behind the line of scrimmage in high school football.
This adjustment to Rule 10-4 (Basic Spots) is among seven changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee during its January 8-10 meeting in Indianapolis. The NFHS Board of Directors approved all the proposed changes for implementation in the 2023 high school football season.
In an effort to maintain a balance between offense and defense, a key goal of the committee, this update specifies that the basic spot for enforcing fouls behind the line of scrimmage will be the previous spot, not the spot of the foul. Current penalties for illegal kicking, batting, and participation fouls, as well as provisions for offensive fouls occurring in the end zone that could result in a safety, will remain unchanged.
For instance, with the modification in Rule 10-4, if an offensive team at its own 40-yard line commits a holding foul 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage at its own 30-yard line, it would face first and 20 from its 30-yard line, rather than the daunting challenge of first and 30 from its own 20-yard line.
“This is an excellent rule change that the majority of game officials and coaches requested and that our NFHS Football Rules Committee members approved unanimously,” said Richard McWhirter, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA). “I believe this change will make the rule clearer for coaches and easier for game officials to administer.”
The NFHS rules committee has made some changes to minimize risks in football. To identify players who should be considered as defenseless receivers, new criteria have been added. Rule 2-32-16 now includes an example of a defenseless player who is a receiver, including the person intercepting the pass. If they are forcefully contacted by an opponent, it must be either incidental contact while making a play on the ball, initiated with open hands, or an attempt to tackle by wrapping the arms around the receiver.
The committee also provided clarity to the intentional grounding rule change from the previous year. The exception for intentional grounding now applies only to the first player who possesses the ball after the snap ends, as per Rule 7-5-2EXCEPTION.
Another change approved by the committee is a revision to Rule 2-29-1, which clarifies when a player is considered inbounds after being out of bounds. However, this revision does not affect any foul or penalty provisions, rules related to illegal participation, or provisions regarding eligibility to catch a pass.
Regarding player equipment, a new rule was introduced in Rule 1-5-3, specifically about player towels. These towels can now contain one manufacturer’s logo and/or one school logo, with neither logo exceeding 2¼ square inches. While the towels must be a solid color, they no longer have to be the same color for every player. However, they cannot be the same color as the ball or penalty flag.
The NFHS has made some changes to the rules of football to improve game efficiency. In Rule 7-5 (TABLE) concerning forward pass interference, the word “intentional” has been removed. This aligns the rule with current enforcement, which is a 15-yard penalty.
In the rules differences for six-player football, which, along with eight-player and nine-player football, use the basic 11-player rules with exceptions, a final change has been approved. An exception in Rule 7 now permits a direct forward handoff during a scrimmage down before a change of possession in six-player football. This change allows for the ball to be handed forward on a running play to the guards/ends, but not to the snapper, as long as both players are behind the neutral zone.
The NFHS Football Rules Committee is dedicated to clarifying the playing rules to achieve optimal game efficiency. This committee is made up of one representative from each of the NFHS member state associations that use NFHS football rules, along with a representative from the NFHS Coaches Association, NFHS Officials Association, and NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
NFHS Football Rule Changes 2023
If you’re interested in the complete list of changes to the football rules, you can find it on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Go to the top of the home page and click on “Activities & Sports,” then select “Football.”
According to the 2021-22 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 11-player football is the most popular high school sport for boys in the United States. There were 973,792 boys who participated in 13,733 schools nationwide. Additionally, there were 34,935 boys who participated in 6-, 8-, and 9-player football, and 3,633 girls who participated in all four versions of the game, bringing the total number of participants to 1,012,360.