NCAA Rule 2 – Definitions

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SECTION 1. Approved Rulings and Official’s Signals

ARTICLE 1.

  1. An Approved Ruling (A.R.) is an official decision on a given statement of facts. It serves to illustrate the spirit and application of the rules.
  2. An official’s signal [S] refers to the Official Football Signals 1 through 47.

SECTION 2. The Ball: Live, Dead, Loose, Ready For Play


ARTICLE 1. Live Ball


A live ball is a ball in play. A pass, kick or fumble that has not yet touched the ground is a live ball in flight.

ARTICLE 2. Dead Ball


A dead ball is a ball not in play.

ARTICLE 3. Loose Ball


  1. A loose ball is a live ball not in player possession during:

    1. A running play.

    2. A scrimmage or free kick before possession is gained or regained or the ball is dead by rule.

    3. The interval after a legal forward pass is touched and before it becomes complete, incomplete or intercepted. This interval is during a forward pass play, and any player eligible to touch the ball may bat it in any direction.

  2. All players are eligible to touch, catch or recover a fumble (Exceptions: Rules 7-2-2-a-2 and 8-3-2-d-5) or a backward pass.

  3. Eligibility to touch a kick is governed by kick rules (Rule 6).

  4. Eligibility to touch a forward pass is governed by pass rules (Rule 7).

ARTICLE 4. When Ball is Ready for Play


A dead ball is ready for play when:

  1. With the 40-second play clock running, an official places the ball at a hash mark or between the inbounds marks and steps away to his position.
  2. With the play clock set at 25 seconds, or at 40 seconds after an injury to or loss of helmet by a defensive team player, the referee sounds his whistle and either signals to start the game clock [S2] or signals that the ball is ready for play [S1]. (A.R. 4-1-4:I and II)

SECTION 3. Blocking


ARTICLE 1. Blocking


  1. Blocking is obstructing an opponent by intentionally contacting him with any part of the blocker’s body.

  2. Pushing is blocking an opponent with open hands.

ARTICLE 2. Below Waist

  1. A block below the waist is a block in which the force of the initial contact is below the waist of an opponent who has one or both feet on the ground. When in question, the contact is below the waist (Rule 9-1-6).
  2. b. A blocker who makes contact above the waist and then slides below the waist has not blocked below the waist. If the blocker first contacts the opposing player’s hands at the waist or above, it is a legal “above the waist” block (Rule 9-1-6).

ARTICLE 3. Chop Block


A chop block is a high-low or low-high combination block by any two players against an opponent (not the ball carrier) anywhere on the field, with or without a delay between blocks; the “low” component is at the opponent’s thigh or below. (A.R. 9-1-10:I-IV) It is not a foul if the blockers’ opponent initiates the contact. (A.R. 9-1-10:V)

ARTICLE 4. Block in the Back

  1. A block in the back is contact against an opponent occurring when the force of the initial contact is from behind and above the waist. When in question, the contact is at or below the waist (see Clipping, Rule 2-5) (Rule 9-3-6). (A.R. 9-3-3:I-VII) (A.R. 10-2-2:XII)
  2. The position of the blocker’s head or feet does not necessarily indicate the point of initial contact.

ARTICLE 5. Frame (of the Body)


The frame of a player’s body is at the shoulders or below other than the back (Rule 9-3-3-a-1-c Exception).

ARTICLE 6. Free-blocking zone


a. The free-blocking zone is a rectangle centred on the middle lineman of the offensive formation and extending five yards laterally and three yards longitudinally in each direction. (See Appendix D.)
b. The free-blocking zone disintegrates when the ball leaves the zone.

ARTICLE 7. Low-Blocking Zone

  1. The low-blocking zone is the rectangle that extends seven yards laterally in each direction from the snapper, five yards beyond the neutral zone and back to Team A’s end line. (See Appendix D.)
  2. The low-blocking zone disintegrates when the ball leaves the zone.

SECTION 4. Catch, Recovery, Possession


ARTICLE 1. In Possession


Possession refers to custody of (a) a live ball as described later in this article or (b) a dead ball to be snapped or free-kicked. It may refer either to player possession or team possession.

  1. Player possession
    The ball is in player possession when a player has the ball firmly in his grasp by holding or controlling it while contacting the ground inbounds.
  2. Team possession
    The ball is in team possession:
    1. When one of its players has player possession, including when he is attempting a punt, drop kick or place kick; or
    2. While a forward pass thrown by a player of that team is in flight; or
    3. During a loose ball if a player of that team last had player possession; or
    4. When the team is next to snap or free kick the ball.
  3. A team is in legal possession if it has team possession when its players are eligible to catch or recover the ball.

ARTICLE 2. Belongs To


“Belongs to,” as contrasted with “in possession” denotes custody of a dead ball. Such custody may be temporary, because the ball must next be put in play in accordance with rules governing the existing situation.

ARTICLE 3. Catch, Interception, Recovery

  1. To catch a ball means that a player:
    1. Secures control of a live ball in flight with his hands or arms before the ball touches the ground, and
    2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then
    3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e. long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc., and
    4. Satisfies paragraphs b, c and d below.
  2. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If he loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before he regains control, it is not a catch. If he regains control inbounds prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch.
  3. If the player loses control of the ball while simultaneously touching the ground with any part of his body, or if there is doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch. If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball, even if it touches the ground, will not be considered loss of possession; he must lose control of the ball in order for there to be a loss of possession.
  4. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control and continues to maintain control, and the elements above are satisfied, it is a catch.
  5. An interception is a catch of an opponent’s pass or fumble.
  6. A catch by any kneeling or prone inbounds player is a completion or interception (Rules 7-3-6 and 7-3-7).
  7. A player recovers a ball if he fulfils the criteria in paragraphs a, b, c, and d for catching a ball that is still alive after hitting the ground.
  8. h. When in question, the catch, recovery or interception is not completed.

Approved ruling 2-4-3

  1. B1 attempts to catch a punt (no fair catch signal) that crosses the neutral zone, strikes his shoulder (a muff) and bounces into the air. The ball does not touch the ground. Airborne A1 receives the ball in flight and first returns to the ground out of bounds. RULING: Team B’s ball at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline. First and 10.
  2. On third down, B1 blocks a Team A scrimmage kick that goes into the air and does not cross the neutral zone. The ball does not touch the ground. A1 jumps and receives the ball in flight and first returns to the ground out of bounds. RULING: Team B’s ball at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline. First and 10 (Rule 6-3-7).
  3. Airborne A3 receives a pass at Team A’s 40-yard line. As he receives the ball, he is contacted by B1 and comes to the ground out of bounds with the ball at Team A’s 37-yard line. RULING: Incomplete pass (Rule 7-3-7-a). [Cited by 7-3-6, 7-3-7-a]
  4. On second down, A1 fumbles the ball, which strikes the ground and bounces high in the air. B2 receives the ball while off the ground and returns to the ground out of bounds (a) in advance of the spot of the fumble or (b) behind the spot of the fumble. RULING: (a) Team A’s ball at the spot of the fumble. (b) Team A’s ball at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline (Rule 4-2-4-d).

ARTICLE 4. Simultaneous Catch or Recovery


A simultaneous catch or recovery is a catch or recovery in which there is joint possession of a live ball by opposing players inbounds.
(A.R. 7-3-6:I-II)

SECTION 5. Clipping

ARTICLE 1.

  1. Clipping is a block against an opponent in which the force of the initial contact is from behind and at or below the waist (Rule 9-1-5).
  2. The position of the blocker’s head or feet does not necessarily indicate the point of initial contact.

SECTION 6. Deliberate Dead-Ball Advance


Deliberately advancing a dead ball is an attempt by a player to advance the ball after any part of his person, other than a hand or foot, has touched the ground or after the ball has been declared dead by rule (Exception: Rule 4-1-3-b Exception).

SECTION 7. Down, Between Downs and Loss of Down


ARTICLE 1. Down


A down is a unit of the game that starts after the ball is ready for play with a legal snap (scrimmage down) or legal free kick (free kick down) and ends when the ball becomes dead [Exception: The try is a scrimmage down that begins when the referee declares the ball ready for play (Rule 8-3-2-b)].

ARTICLE 2. Between Downs


Between downs is the interval during which the ball is dead.

ARTICLE 3. Loss of down


“Loss of down” is an abbreviation meaning “loss of the right to repeat a down”.

SECTION 8. Fair Catch


ARTICLE 1. Fair Catch

  1. A fair catch of a scrimmage kick is a catch beyond the neutral zone by a Team B player who has made a valid signal during a scrimmage kick that is untouched beyond the neutral zone.
  2. A fair catch of a free kick is a catch by a player of Team B who has made a valid signal during an untouched free kick.
  3. A valid or invalid fair catch signal deprives the receiving team of the opportunity to advance the ball. The ball is declared dead at the spot of the catch or recovery or at the spot of the signal if the catch precedes the signal.
  4. If the receiver shades his eyes from the sun without waving his hand(s), the ball is live and may be advanced.

ARTICLE 2. Valid Signal


A valid signal is a signal given by a player of Team B who has obviously signalled his intention by extending one hand only clearly above his head and waving the hand from side to side of his body more than once.

ARTICLE 3. Invalid Signal


An invalid signal is any waving signal by a player of Team B:

  1. That does not meet the requirements of Rule 2-8-2 (above); or
  2. That is given after a scrimmage kick is caught beyond the neutral zone, strikes the ground or touches another player beyond the neutral zone (A.R. 6-5-3:III-V); or
  3. That is given after a free kick is caught, strikes the ground or touches another player (Exception: Rule 6-4-1-f).

SECTION 9. Forward, Beyond and Forward Progress


ARTICLE 1. Forward, Beyond


Forward, beyond or in advance of, as related to either team, denotes direction toward the opponent’s end line. Converse terms are backward or behind.

ARTICLE 2. Forward Progress

Forward progress is a term indicating the end of advancement by the ball carrier or airborne pass receiver of either team and applies to the position of the ball when it became dead by rule (Rules 4-1-3-a, 4-1-3-b and 4-1-3-p; Rules 4-2-1 and 4-2-4; and Rule 5-1-3-a Exception)
(A.R. 5-1-3:I-VI) (A.R. 8-2-1:I-IX)(Exception:Rule 8-5-1-a, (A.R. 8-5-1:I)).