COLUMBUS — In past years, Ohio high school football games could be shortened by mutual agreement of both head coaches.
That will change this fall with the adoption of a football point differential rule as part of the 2014-15 sport regulations approved by the Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors.
The point differential regulation, which is already used in most states, is permitted by state adoption according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Ohio’s proposal, which will utilize a 30-point margin, was recommended to the board by the OHSAA staff after more than a year of consultation with the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association.
Unlike changes to the bylaws and constitution, which require a vote of the membership, changes to sport-specific regulations and the general sports regulations only need the approval of the board of directors.
“First and foremost, this was proposed out of concern for player safety,” said Beau Rugg, the OHSAA’s assistant commissioner in charge of football, wrestling, and all officiating. “Lopsided games aren’t good for anybody.
“The risk of injury goes up and it can be a tense situation for coaches and players. The length of games is also a topic of conversation at the national level. This is just the right thing to do.”
The rule will prevent extremely lopsided games, like several involving local schools last season.
Some examples were Genoa defeating Port Clinton (84-13), Woodmore (88-14), and Otsego (73-26). Central Catholic beating Findlay (69-3), Lima Senior (70-26), and Defiance (69-14 in the Division III playoffs), and Whitmer defeating Lima Senior (83-28).
“Last year, for the first time, I was on the other end of it,” St. John's Jesuit coach Doug Pearson said. “Michigan has had this rule in place for a while. They call it PITS, and they only stop the clock for penalties, injuries, timeouts, or scores. "Birmingham Brother Rice was kicking our butts [49-7 final], and I was pretty glad the clock was running to be honest. I hope I'm never on the other end of it again."
Ohio joins 34 other states that had adopted point differential rules for football, including 20 that have stipulations that games can be immediately terminated at a designated margin between the two teams.
Under Ohio’s new football point differential regulation, after the first half, any time one team’s lead reaches 30 points or more, a running clock will be instituted.
The only time, after the 30-point margin is reached, that the clock will stop will be: when an official’s timeout is called, either for an injured player or following a change of team possession; when a charged time-out is called; at the end of a period, or when a team scores.
The clock will start again on the ready for play signal for the first play after any of those situations, and will continue to run in all other situations.
After the 30-point difference has been met, if the score drops below 30 points at any time, the clock reverts to regular timing.
“This takes the decision-making situation out of it for the coaches,” Rugg said. “That is often a tough situation for a coach to be in. Now, they can point to the rule instead of having to make that decision. Like all regulations, we will monitor this to see how it affects games.”
This new rule does not preclude the use of a NFHS rule which allows for a period or periods to be shortened in any emergency by agreement of the opposing coaches and referee. By mutual agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee, any remaining periods may be shortened at any time, or the game can be terminated.
“It's going to speed things up,” Pearson said. “It'll be interesting to see what happens, but I think it's a good rule. Since the advent of the spread offense, if you look in the paper on Saturday morning and there's teams scoring 60, 70, and even 80 points. I think this will stop that.
“As a coach it's hard because even when you're way behind you still want your kids to keep fighting. Once they see the clock's running it's going to signal to them that the game's over. My kids are going to keep fighting no matter what the score is.”