NFHS, NCAA Rules Conference Recap

CONTACT: Marty Maciaszek, Director of Team Dealer Division
mmaciaszek@nsga.org
(847) 296-NSGA (6742), ext. 1260

(April 18, 2017) - The annual rules conference held by the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) and NCAA took place on Tuesday, April 18 in Indianapolis. The meeting gives members of the sporting goods industry the chance to discuss potential rule changes and issues affecting rules and equipment with leaders of two of the biggest sports rule-making bodies in the country and with NOCSAE.

Here are some of the highlights of the meeting attended by NSGA Team Dealer Director Marty Maciaszek.

Baseball
When the NFHS Baseball Committee meets in June, it will look at two key areas regarding NOCSAE standards, according to NFHS baseball rules editor Elliot Hopkins. The committee will look at the NOCSAE standard for developing chest protection to prevent commotio cordis, which is a heart rhythm disruption caused by a blow to the chest and can cause sudden cardiac death in young athletes in baseball and lacrosse.

The chest protector standard is in final status and is expected to go into effect in January 2018. Hopkins said he believes the rules committee will vote yes to adding it as a requirement to the NFHS baseball rules, but said "we need to know when product will be available" and understands it may take some time for this to happen.

The NFHS will also discuss a NOCSAE standard for baseballs at the June meeting. This would not be a standard for safety reasons but would be to develop a more consistent performance standard, according to NOCSAE executive director Mike Oliver. 

Hopkins said the NFHS will give retailers, team dealers and manufacturers the time necessary to clear out their inventories but wants to implement these standards as quickly and prudently as possible.

Wearable technology and the impact it will have on high school baseball in the future will also be a discussion topic at the June meeting. Hopkins also said there has been a big uptick in girls playing high school baseball instead of softball.

Football

NFHS  
NFHS reiterated some of the rule changes that have been made for the 2017 season and also went through some of the points of emphasis.

Footballs cannot be used for advertising, for example, with a local business or sponsor. Allowable on the football are the ball manufacturer's name or logo, the school name or logo, the conference name or logo and the NFHS authenticating mark.

Home team jerseys will have to be a dark color which clearly contrasts with white and will go into effect for the 2021 season. The rule change is important for game administration and was coach-driven.

It is illegal to have slogans such as "Tradition" or "Legacy" on the front or the back nameplate of the uniforms and team nicknames and/or slogans are also illegal. An example of a one-time exception that would be allowable would be a jersey honoring Wounded Warriors, provided it is approved by the state's association.

Shoulder pads must be covered and back pads must be completely covered by jerseys. Football pants must have the knee pad and pant covering the knee completely.

While the NFHS football rules committee did not approve a recommendation this year for using plain mouth guards, football rules editor Bob Colgate said the proposal could come up again. Mouthguards with logos, nicknames and numbers are currently legal but any design that could be considered offensive or a form of taunting is illegal.

Colgate said the number of high school participants in all levels of football - 11-player to 9-, 8- and 6-player - was 1,114,391 in 2015. He expects the participation numbers from 2016 to be similar or slightly higher.

NCAA
NCAA football rules liaison Ty Halpin said a point of emphasis for 2017 will be enforcement of the existing rules on football pants having to go to the knees with a half-inch knee pad. Halpin said the NCAA rule requires the pants to completely cover the knee, but for now, the goal is to see pants get to some part of the knee and then "worry about long-term purchasing decisions further down the road." Officials and conferences will be urged to make sure players are in compliance with the rule.

Halpin said the NCAA is also looking closely at the NFL's "one-helmet rule," where a player uses one helmet fitted and certified through the year and it doesn't allow for a throwback helmet. He said he is sensing in a few years NCAA teams may be allowed to wear only road and home helmets and no alternative helmets.

The NCAA also is researching why people may or may not attend games and why students are not using tickets for games at some of the major football schools.

Lacrosse

NCAA
Headgear is not required for women's lacrosse, but if players do wear headgear it must meet the most current ASTM standard. NCAA women's lacrosse liaison Rachel Seewald said there are not many players wearing headgear and the rules committee is not looking to mandate headgear. NFHS and US Lacrosse also said they have no mandates coming about women wearing ASTM approved headgear.

Division I women are using a possession or shot clock this year and Seewald said Division II and III will use one next year. Ty Halpin said it is an ongoing topic of discussion for men's lacrosse.

NFHS
The new NOCSAE ball standard with the combined certification mark of NOCSAE and SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) and the NFHS Authenticating Mark went into effect April 1.

The new specifications for the cross on the boys stick go into effect in 2018. The specifications are:

1.25 and 3.0 inches from the throat - a minimum distance of 3 inches from the narrowest point on the head on the front or back.

5.0 inches from the throat - a minimum distance of 3.5-4.0 inches on the front and 4.0 inches on the back from the narrowest point on the head.

Widest point - minimum of 6.0 inches from the narrowest point on the head on the front or back.

Ice Hockey
Both the NFHS and NCAA said one of the biggest issues in the last year is certain Cat-Eye goalie masks meeting the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) standards and others that did not and would be considered illegal for use. The ice hockey page at nfhs.org has illustrations of what is legal and illegal.

Ty Halpin said the NCAA is very interested in what the NHL has done with the streamlining of goalie equipment. Halpin said Division I men would adopt the NHL standards as quickly as they can with Division III men and women's hockey probably following at a slower rate.


NOCSAE Standards Updates

Commotio cordis
The commotio cordis chest protector standard, which addresses sudden cardiac death, is in final status and is expected to take effect in January 2018. NOCSAE Executive Director Mike Oliver said the standard would currently be applied only to baseball and lacrosse, because it is specific to the mass of the balls in those sports, but he expect it to eventually expand to softball and ice hockey.

Oliver said the chest protection could be a baseball or lacrosse chest protector, a device that protects the cardiac silhouette or a compression shirt. Oliver said companies have approached SEI about certification but the standard will need more work to become a viable standard that works. Because this is a new standard there is more flexibility with the date for compliance than with a revised standard.

Oliver said the industry is supportive of the commotio cordis standard and believes most of the issues can be addressed relatively quickly.

"If two or three lives are saved it will be worth every minute that was invested in it," Oliver said.

Football helmets
The football helmet standard has been revised to incorporate a pass/fail component most closely associated with concussions for rotational acceleration. Oliver said the current final standard date of June 2018 is less likely to change because this is a revision and not a brand new standard.

Oliver said he is very confident a number of models that already exist will meet the standard and he doesn't see helmets that are one to three years old having to be replaced because they don't meet the standard. He is concerned that parents could put pressure on schools or organizations to change helmets in a manner similar to what happened with the Virginia Tech STAR helmet ratings.

"I am convinced the helmet that meets the new standard will prevent an increased number of concussions," Oliver said. "I'm also convinced we won't be able to measure that accurately in the field."

Women's lacrosse balls
The women's lacrosse ball standard goes into effect in June. It is for a ball that is less likely to cause serious injury.

By June, balls made and submitted for certification have to comply with the new standard. The ball has to have the name NOCSAE and SEI on it and other governing bodies can add their authenticating mark as required.

Oliver said there also must be a model on the ball. He said SEI publishes a list of certified models on their website at seinet.org.

Field Hockey headgear and balls
The field hockey headgear and field hockey ball standards are in final status but Oliver said he wasn't sure when they would be incorporated into the rules of play. Oliver said he was concerned there hasn't been a rush into a certification program by manufacturers of those products.