Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

August 14, 2013

UIL establishes new grid rules geared toward safety; adds fourth playoff team per district in 3A


Mineral Wells Index

— By TONY EIERDAM

In an interest to keep high school football player safety high, the University Interscholastic League has put in several news rules for the upcoming 2013 grid season.

The most visible rules change is the “Football Practice Limits” rule that states “during the regular season and post season, no football player is allowed to participate in more than 90 minutes of full contact practice per week.”

For the purpose of the rule, “full contact” is defined by live game simulations at full speed or any competitive drill where players take each other to the ground. The UIL claims the rule is designed to limit live action drills and game simulations to help prevent injuries.

A team can still practice in full pads for the entire practice, but is now limited to 90 minutes a week of what the UIL describes as full contact.

Mineral Wells Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said the rule will not affect his team.

With a small roster with little depth, the Rams understandably do not engage in much full contact during the football season to help avoid injuries.

The “big” rule, according to Lawrence, is the new “targeting” rule put out by the NCAA.

The UIL abides by NCAA rules.

The “targeting” rule states that any player who uses the crown of his helmet or forearm to hit a ball carrier in the head will be ejected for one game.

If a player is ejected in the second half, he will have to sit out the first half of the next game.

“The time limit on contact drills does not bother us, but the big rule I think is the targeting rules,” Lawrence said. “The new rule states that if a player launches himself into the head and shoulders of an opponent or use a forearm to the head area or the crown of the helmet it is an automatic ejection.

“I like the rule for the safety of the kids. But it leaves a lot of judgement for the officials, and I am hesitant as to how each individual official will enforce it.

“They are telling the officials when in doubt to throw the player out.

“It is going to be interesting to see how the officials interpret that rule. This is an important rule. It could change a ball game.

“The penalty is huge. They are also eliminating ‘chicken fighting ‘ (when receivers and defensive backs engage on running plays away from their side). It is now a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalty.

“If a player gets two of those in a game he is ejected. Again, it will all be in the judgement of the officials. They also tried to simplify the crack back, blocking-below-the-waist rules, but I am not certain that they have. But all of the rules changes are done for the safety of the kids, and I agree we have to keep the kids safe.”

A local football official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the targeting rule will be a tough rule to call. He also said high school will not get the benefit of replay to determine if a player used the crown of his helmet to hit the head of the ball carrier. The new rule directs officials, if the game is on TV, to check a replay to either confirm or change the call.

“When the NCAA puts out a new rule like this, they do not think that the rules will also be changed at the Division II and III levels, junior colleges and high schools,” the official said. “NCAA Division I games are on television and they can use replay that high schools cannot. So when the rule reads that officials can take another look at a blow-to-the-head penalty on replay to double check, well, we can’t do that at the high school level.

“I can’t speak for any official but myself, but if I see that a kid is trying to make a play and not targeting a ball carrier then I don’t see how that would be interpreted as a penalty.

“However, we have not had our (local chapter) rules meeting yet so it is really hard to comment on it from an officials standpoint and how as a group we are going to call it at this point.

“But I think the way we will call it is to look first to see if the defender is actually targeting the head. It will be a matter of if we think it is a target or not. But, like most personal foul penalties, it is subjective.”

Other UIL rules changes for the 2013-14 school year:

• Add a fourth playoff team advancing from each district in team sport activities in conferences 3A and 2A (in football, two teams will go to the Division I (large) school playoffs and two teams will go to the Division II (small) schools playoffs. In all other team sports the top four teams advance to the playoffs in the same playoff bracket).

• Modify penalty structure for coaches’ ejection.

• Reduce the number of tournaments or meets by one per season for all high school sports.

• Allow schools to substitute tournaments for games.

• Create a six-conference alignment by renaming the current conferences for the 2014-15 school year.

• Require parents and students to sign the new Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Form.

• Require cheerleaders and parents to sign the Concussion Acknowledgement form.

• Require cheerleading participants to follow Concussion Guidelines under Chapter 38, sub chapter D of the Texas Education Code.

• Require cheer coaches and sponsors to complete specific training related to safety guidelines for cheer.