NCAA Rule 2 – Definitions

SECTION 20. Penalty


A penalty is a result imposed by rule against a team that has committed a foul and may include one or more of the following: loss of yardage, loss of down, automatic first down, disqualification or subtraction from the game clock (Rule 10-1-1-b).

SECTION 21. Scrimmage


ARTICLE 1. Scrimmage Down


A scrimmage down is the action between the two teams during a down that begins with a legal snap. Note: A try down is a scrimmage down that begins when the referee declares the ball ready for play (Rule 8-3-2-b)

ARTICLE 2. Scrimmage Line


The scrimmage line for each team is established when the ball is ready for play. It is the yard line that defines the vertical plane passing through the point of the ball nearest a team’s own goal line.

SECTION 22. Shift

ARTICLE 1.

  1. A shift is a simultaneous change of position or stance by two or more offensive players after the ball is ready for play before the snap for a scrimmage down. (A.R. 7-1-3:I-II) (A.R. 7-1-2:I-IV)
  2. The shift ends when all players have been motionless for one full second.
  3. The shift continues if one or more players are in motion before the end of the one second interval.

SECTION 23. Snapping the Ball

ARTICLE 1.

  1. Legally snapping the ball (a snap) is handing or passing it backward from its position on the ground with a quick and continuous motion of the hand or hands, the ball actually leaving the hand or hands in this motion (Rule 4-1-4).
  2. The snap starts when the ball is moved legally and ends when the ball leaves the snapper’s hands; the ball then becomes alive (Rule 4-1-1) (A.R. 7-1-5:I-II)
  3. If, during any backward motion of a legal snap, the ball slips from the snapper’s hand, it becomes a backward pass and is in play (Rule 4-1-1).
  4. While resting on the ground and before the snap, the long axis of the ball must be at right angles to the scrimmage line (Rule 7-1-3).
  5. Unless moved in a backward direction, the movement of the ball does not start a legal snap. It is not a legal snap if the ball is first moved forward or lifted.
  6. If the ball is touched by Team B during a legal snap, the ball remains dead and Team B is penalised. If the ball is touched by Team B during an illegal snap, the ball remains dead and Team A is penalised. (A.R. 7-1-5:I-II)
  7. The snap need not be between the snapper’s legs; but to be legal, it must be a quick and continuous backward motion.
  8. The ball must be snapped on or between the hash marks.

Approved ruling 2-23-1

  1. Fourth and goal on Team B’s five-yard line. A55’s legal snap is muffed by A12 and (a) any player of Team A recovers and advances the ball into the end zone, or (b) a player of Team B recovers and advances the ball. RULING: The snap is a backward pass and may be advanced by any player.(a) Touchdown. Since this is a backward pass and not a fumble there is no restriction on a Team A player recovering and advancing the ball. (b) Ball continues in play. [Cited by 2-19-2-d, 7-2-2-a, 8-2-1-a]

SECTION 24. Series and Possession Series


ARTICLE 1. Series


A series comprises up to four consecutive downs that each begins with a snap (Rule 5-1-1).

ARTICLE 2. Possession Series


A possession series is a team’s continuous possession of the ball in an extra period (Rule 3-1-3). It may consist of one or more series.

SECTION 25. Spots


ARTICLE 1. Enforcement Spot


An enforcement spot is the point at which the penalty for a foul or the result of a violation is enforced.

ARTICLE 2. Previous Spot


The previous spot is the point at which the ball was last put in play.

ARTICLE 3. Succeeding Spot


The succeeding spot is the point at which the ball is next to be put in play.

ARTICLE 4. Dead-Ball Spot


The dead-ball spot is the point at which the ball became dead.

ARTICLE 5. Spot of the Foul


The spot of the foul is the point at which that foul occurs. If out of bounds between the goal lines, it shall be the intersection of the nearer hash mark and the yard line extended through the spot of the foul. If out of bounds between the goal line and the end line or behind the end line, the foul is in the end zone.

ARTICLE 6. Out-of-Bounds Spot


The out-of-bounds spot is the point at which, according to the rule, the ball becomes dead by rule because of going or being declared out of bounds.

ARTICLE 7. Inbounds Spot


The inbounds spot is the intersection of the nearer hash mark line and the yard line passing through either the dead-ball spot or the spot where a penalty leaves the ball in a side zone.

ARTICLE 8. Spot Where Run Ends


The spot where the run ends is at that point:

  1. Where the ball is declared dead in player possession.
  2. Where player possession is lost on a fumble.
  3. Where handing of the ball occurs.
  4. Where an illegal forward pass is thrown.
  5. Where a backward pass is thrown.
  6. Where an illegal scrimmage kick is made beyond the line of scrimmage.
  7. Where a return kick occurs.
  8. Where player possession is gained under provisions of the “momentum rule” (Rule 8-5-1-a Exceptions).

ARTICLE 9. Spot Where Kick Ends


A scrimmage kick that crosses the neutral zone ends at the spot where it is caught or recovered or where the ball is declared dead by rule (Rule 2-16-1-c).

ARTICLE 10. Basic Spot


The basic spot is a benchmark for locating the enforcement spot for penalties governed by the Three-and-One Principle (Rule 2-33). Basic spots for the various categories of plays are given in Rule 10-2-2-d.

ARTICLE 11. Postscrimmage Kick Spot


The postscrimmage kick spot serves as the basic spot when postscrimmage kick enforcement applies (Rule 10-2-3).

  1. When the kick ends in the field of play, other than in the special cases given below, the postscrimmage kick spot is the spot where the kick ends.
  2. When the kick ends in Team B’s end zone, the postscrimmage kick spot is Team B’s 20-yard line.
    Special cases:
    1. On an unsuccessful field goal attempt, if the ball is untouched by Team B after crossing the neutral zone and is declared dead beyond the neutral zone, the postscrimmage kick spot is:
      1. The previous spot, if the previous spot is on or outside Team B’s 20-yard line; (A.R. 10-2-3:V)
      2. Team B’s 20-yard line, if the previous spot is between Team B’s 20-yard line and its goal line.
    2. When Rule 6-3-11 is in effect, the postscrimmage kick spot is Team B’s 20-yard line.
    3. When Rule 6-5-1-b is in effect, the postscrimmage kick spot is the spot where the receiver first touched the kick.

SECTION 26. Tackling


Tackling is grasping or encircling an opponent with a hand(s) or arm(s).

SECTION 27. Team and Player Designations


ARTICLE 1. Teams A and B


Team A is the team that is designated to put the ball in play, and Team B is the opponent. The teams retain these designations until the ball is next ready for play.

ARTICLE 2. Offensive and Defensive Teams


The offensive team is the team in possession, or the team to which the ball belongs; the defensive team is the opposing team.

ARTICLE 3. Kicker and Holder

  1. The kicker is any player who punts, drop kicks or place kicks according to rule. He remains the kicker until he has had a reasonable time to regain his balance.
  2. A holder is a player who controls the ball on the ground or on a kicking tee. During a scrimmage-kick play, he remains the holder until no player is in position to make the kick or, if the ball is kicked, until the kicker has had a reasonable time to regain his balance.

ARTICLE 4. Lineman and Back

  1. Lineman.
    1. A lineman is any Team A player legally on his scrimmage line (Rule 2-21-2).
    2. A Team A player is legally on his scrimmage line when he faces his opponent’s goal line with the line of his shoulders approximately parallel thereto and either (a) he is the snapper (Rule 2-27-8) or (b) his head breaks the plane of the line drawn through the waistline of the snapper.
  2. Interior lineman.
    An interior lineman is a lineman who is not on the end of his scrimmage line.
  3. Restricted lineman.
    A restricted lineman is any interior lineman, or any lineman wearing a number 50-79, whose hand(s) are below the knees.
  4. Back.
    1. A back is any Team A player who is not a lineman and whose head or shoulder does not break the plane of the line drawn through the waistline of the nearest Team A lineman.
    2. A back is also the player in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap.
    3. A lineman becomes a back before the snap when he moves to a position as a back and stops.

ARTICLE 5. Forward Passer


The forward passer is the player who throws a forward pass. He is a forward passer from the time he releases the ball until the pass is complete, incomplete or intercepted, or until he moves to participate in the play.

ARTICLE 6. Player

  1. A player is any one of the participants in the game who is not a substitute or a replaced player and is subject to the rules when inbounds or out of bounds.
  2. An airborne player is a player not in contact with the ground because he leaps, jumps, dives, launches, is contacted by an opponent or teammate, etc. in other than normal running action.
  3. A departing player is a player leaving the field, having been replaced by a substitute.

ARTICLE 7. Runner and Ball Carrier

  1. The runner is a player in possession of a live ball or simulating possession of a live ball.
  2. A ball carrier is a runner in possession of a live ball.

ARTICLE 8. Snapper


The snapper is the player who snaps the ball. He is established as the snapper when he takes a position behind the ball and touches or simulates (hand(s) at or below his knees) touching the ball (Rule 7-1-3).

ARTICLE 9. Substitute

  1. a. A legal substitute is a replacement for a player or a player vacancy during the interval between downs.
  2. b. A legal incoming substitute becomes a player when he enters the field of play or end zones and communicates with a teammate or an official, enters the huddle, is positioned in an offensive or defensive formation, or participates in a play.

ARTICLE 10. Replaced Player


A replaced player is one who participated during the previous down, has been replaced by a substitute and has left the field of play and the end zones.

ARTICLE 11. Player Vacancy


A player vacancy occurs when a team has fewer than 11 players in the game.

ARTICLE 12. Disqualified Player

  1. A disqualified player is one who is declared ineligible for further participation in the game.
  2. A disqualified player must leave the playing enclosure under the escort of team personnel before the next play after his disqualification. He must remain out of view of the field of play under team supervision for the duration of the game.
  3. A player serving a first-half suspension due to his disqualification in the team’s previous game may participate in pre-game warm-up activities. During the first half he must remain out of view of the field of play under team supervision.

ARTICLE 13. Squad Member


A squad member is part of a group of potential players, in uniform, organised for participation in the ensuing football game or football plays.

ARTICLE 14. Defenseless player


A defenseless player is one who because of his physical position and focus of concentration is especially vulnerable to injury. When in question, a player is defenseless. Examples of defenseless players include but are not limited to:

  1. A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
  2. A receiver attempting to catch a forward pass or in position to receive a backward pass, or one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
  3. A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick or the return.
  4. A kick returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
  5. A player on the ground.
  6. A player obviously out of the play.
  7. A player who receives a blind-side block. A blind-side block is one where a player obviously does not see the opposing blocker approaching him.
  8. A ball carrier already in the grasp of an opponent and whose forward progress has been stopped.
  9. A quarterback any time after a change of possession.
  10. A ball carrier who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first.

ARTICLE 15. Player Out of Bounds and In Bounds

  1. Out of Bounds
    1. A player is out of bounds when any part of his body touches anything other than another player or a game official on or outside a boundary line.
    2. An out-of-bounds player who becomes airborne remains out of bounds until he touches the ground in bounds without simultaneously being out of bounds.
  2. In Bounds
    1. An inbounds player is a player who is not out of bounds.
    2. An inbounds player who becomes airborne remains in bounds until he is out of bounds.

ARTICLE 16. Definition of coach

  1. A coach is a person subject to the rules who, while in the team area or coaching box, observes the game and/or gives instructions to players and substitutes.
  2. A player/coach is regarded as being a coach when in the team area or coaching box and as a player or substitute otherwise.
  3. Each team shall designate a coach as its head coach, and identify him on the roster form and to the Referee.

SECTION 28. Tripping


Tripping is intentionally using the lower leg or foot to obstruct an opponent below the knees (Rule 9-1-2-c).

SECTION 29. Timing Devices


ARTICLE 1. Game Clock


The game clock is any device under the direction of the appropriate official used to time the duration of the game.

ARTICLE 2. Play Clock


Each stadium shall have a visual play clock at each end of the playing enclosure. The play clock must be capable of counting down from both 40 seconds and 25 seconds. It should automatically default to 40 seconds and start immediately upon being reset by the play-clock operator when any official signals that the ball is dead after a play.