NCAA Rule 10 – Penalty enforcement

SECTION 1. Penalties Completed


ARTICLE 1. How and When Completed




  1. A penalty is completed when it is accepted, declined or cancelled according to rule, or when the choice is obvious to the referee.

  2. Any penalty may be declined, but a disqualified player must leave the game whether the penalty is accepted or declined (Rule 2-27-12).

  3. When a foul is committed, sethe penalty shall be completed before the ball is declared ready for play for any ensuing down.

  4. Penalties as stated are not enforced if in conflict with other rules.


ARTICLE 2. Simultaneous with Snap


A foul that occurs simultaneously with a snap or free kick is considered as occurring during that down (Exception: Rule 3-5-2-e).

ARTICLE 3. Live-Ball Fouls by the Same Team


When two or more live-ball fouls by the same team are reported to the referee, the offended team may elect only one of these penalties. Any player who commits a foul that mandates disqualification must leave the game.

ARTICLE 4. Offsetting Fouls


If live-ball fouls by both teams are reported to the referee, the fouls offset and the down is repeated. (A.R. 10-1-4:I and VII) Any player who commits a foul that mandates disqualification must leave the game. Exceptions:

  1. When there is a change of team possession during a down, and the team last gaining possession had not fouled before last gaining possession, it may refuse offsetting fouls and thereby retain possession after completion of the penalty for its foul. (A.R. 10-1-4:II-VII)

  2. When all Team B fouls are governed by postscrimmage kick rules, Team B may refuse offsetting fouls and accept postscrimmage kick enforcement.

  3. Rule 10-2-7-c (during a try or extra period after Team B possession).

Approved ruling 10-1-4


  1. On a Team A kickoff, Team B fouls before the untouched ball goes out of bounds between the goal lines. RULING: Offsetting fouls. Team A re-kicks at the previous spot. [Cited by 10-1-4]
  2. On a Team A kickoff from its 35-yard line, Team B fouls after the untouched ball goes out of bounds between the goal lines. RULING: Team B may elect a repeat with Team A free-kicking at its 45-yard line. If Team B retains the ball, it will be at its 20-yard line, after the 15-yard penalty from its 35-yard line, or 15 yards behind the spot where the five-yard penalty against Team A left the ball (Rules 6-1-8 and 10-1-6). [Cited by 10-1-4 Exception 1]
  3. Team A is in an illegal formation at the snap. A1’s forward pass is intercepted by B1, who advances five yards and is tackled. Team B clips during B1’s run. RULING: Team B has the option to accept offsetting fouls and repeat the down or to decline offsetting fouls and retain the ball after its penalty is completed. In the latter case Team A may accept or decline the penalty for Team B’s clipping foul. [Cited by 10-1-4 Exception 1, 5-2-8]
  4. A1 throws an illegal forward pass and Team B is in the neutral zone at the snap. B23 intercepts the pass and B10 clips on the return. B23 is tackled in the field of play. RULING: No option. The fouls offset and the down is repeated. Team B may not decline offsetting fouls because it had fouled before getting possession of the ball. [Cited by 10-1-4 Exception 1, 5-2-8]
  5. A1’s forward pass is intercepted by B1, who advances and fumbles. B2 recovers and returns the ball five more yards. Team A fouls during or after the down, and Team B fouls during the fumble or during the return by B2. RULING: If Team A’s foul was a live-ball foul, Team B may select offsetting fouls and repeat the down or select an option to retain the ball following the completion of the penalty for its foul. If Team A’s foul was a dead-ball foul, Team B retains the ball after enforcement of both penalties. [Cited by 10-1-4 Exception 1, 5-2-8]
  6. Team A’s legal forward pass is intercepted by B45, who advances several yards. On the return, B23 clips and A78 tackles B45 by pulling and twisting his face mask. RULING: Since Team B had not fouled before the change of possession, it may decline offsetting fouls and retain possession after completion of the clipping penalty. [Cited by 10-1-4 Exception 1, 5-2-8]
  7. A1 receives the snap while standing on his end line. Team B is offside at the snap. RULING: Team A’s foul, out of bounds at the snap, offsets Team B’s offside, and the down is repeated. [Note: If Team B had not been offside, Team B could accept the penalty for Team A’s foul or a safety (Rule 8-5-1-a)]. [Cited by 10-1-4, 10-1-4 Exception 1, 5-2-8]

ARTICLE 5. Dead-Ball Fouls


Penalties for dead-ball fouls are administered separately and in order of occurrence (A.R. 10-1-5:I-III) [Exception: When dead-ball unsportsmanlike or dead-ball personal fouls by both teams are reported to the referee and none of the penalties have been completed, the yardage penalties cancel and the number or type of down established before the fouls occurred is unaffected. Any disqualified player must leave the game (Rules 5-2-6 and 10-2-2-a)].

Approved ruling 10-1-5


  1. With fourth and eight, Team A gains four yards and the ball is declared dead, after which B1 is called for piling on. RULING: Team B personal foul. Penalty – 15 yards from the succeeding spot. First and 10 for Team B (Rule 5-1-1-c). The clock starts on the snap. [Cited by 10-1-5, 5-1-1-c, 5-2-6]
  2. A personal or disqualifying personal foul occurs during action after a snap that was made before the ball was ready for play. RULING: Every effort should be made to prevent any such premature snap and resulting action, but if such a foul does occur, it is between downs. If both fouls are by Team A, both penalties are enforced. If the second foul was by Team B, both penalties are enforced with a probable net of 10 yards for Team A. The penalty for Team B’s foul carries an automatic first down. [Cited by 10-1-5, 5-2-6]
  3. Second and goal at the three-yard line. Ball carrier A14 is downed at the one-yard line and then B67 piles on. A14 retaliates by slugging B67. RULING: The penalties cancel since neither has been completed. A14 is disqualified for fighting. Third and goal (Rule 10-1-1). [Cited by 10-1-5, 5-2-6]

ARTICLE 6. Live-Ball – Dead-Ball Fouls




  1. Live-ball fouls do not offset dead-ball fouls.

  2. When a live-ball foul by one team is followed by one or more dead-ball fouls (including live-ball fouls treated as dead-ball fouls) by an opponent or by the same team, the penalties are administered separately and in the order of occurrence. (A.R. 10-1-6:I-VI)

Approved ruling 10-1-6


  1. Team A punts and is illegally in motion at the snap. The untouched ball goes out of bounds between the goal lines, after which Team B commits a personal foul. RULING: Possible options: (1) If Team B elects to repeat the down, Team A will be penalized five yards at the previous spot followed by a 15-yard penalty against Team B, which includes an automatic first down. (2) Team B could decline the illegal-motion penalty and have the ball first and 10 after a 15-yard penalty from the out-of-bounds spot. (3) Team B could accept the five-yard penalty enforced at the out of bounds spot (Rule 6-3-13) followed by the 15-yard penalty against Team B. In all options, the clock starts on the snap (Rule 3-3-2-d-8). [Cited by 10-1-6-b]
  2. Ball carrier B17 at Team A’s 11-yard line taunts pursuing A55 before scoring a touchdown on an intercepted pass. After B17 crosses the goal line, he is tackled by A55 five yards into the end zone. RULING: Unsportsmanlike conduct by B17 and A55. Both penalties are enforced. The penalty for B17’s live-ball foul is enforced at the A-11, and that for the dead-ball foul by A55 is enforced at the succeeding spot. First and 10 for Team B at the A-13. [Cited by 10-1-6-b]
  3. B1 fouls during a down before B2 intercepts a legal forward pass. After the ball is declared dead, A1 piles on. RULING: Team A retains the ball after the penalty against Team B is enforced. Team A then will be penalized for the dead-ball foul (Rule 5-2-3). [Cited by 10-1-6-b]
  4. Team B is offside on the snap at its three-yard line (not a try) and Team A throws a legal forward pass into Team B’s end zone. Team B intercepts and runs 101 yards to Team A’s end zone, after which Team A clips. RULING: Repeat the down with Team A putting the ball in play at the Team B 16½-yard line. [Cited by 10-1-6-b]
  5. No fouls have occurred when Team B intercepts Team A’s legal forward pass. On the runback, a Team B player clips. When the ball becomes dead, a Team A player piles on. RULING: Team B retains possession. Penalize Team B for its clipping foul, followed by a penalty for Team A’s dead-ball foul. The yardages will cancel unless one enforcement spot was inside the 30-yard line and enforcement was toward that goal. [Cited by 10-1-6-b]
  6. Team A punts and commits a touching violation. B1 clips during the runback of the punt, which is fumbled by B2. A1 recovers the fumble, and A2 fouls after the ball is dead. RULING: Team A has the first option because Team B fouled during the live ball. If Team A declines the penalty for Team B’s foul, Team B will have the ball at the point of the violation, along with the option of accepting enforcement of the penalty for Team A’s dead-ball foul. If Team A accepts the penalty for Team B’s foul, the ball will belong to Team B after enforcement of the penalty for its live-ball foul followed by the penalty against Team A for the dead-ball foul. [Cited by 10-1-6-b]

ARTICLE 7. Interval Fouls


Penalties for fouls that occur between the end of the fourth period and the start of the extra period for overtime, between possession series during an extra period, and between extra periods are enforced from the 25-yard line, the spot of the next possession series (Exception: Rule 10-2-5). (A.R. 10-2-5:I-XII)