Ohio high school football games in 2014 will now include a 30-point mercy rule complete with running clock.
By Kevin Goheen
Ever go to a high school football game that's gotten out of hand on the scoreboard? You won't be there as long from now on if it happens in Ohio.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association on Wednesday announced the adoption of a point differential rule for football beginning this upcoming 2014 season. In simpler terms, it's a running clock. If in the second half of games one team reaches a 30-point advantage over the other, the game clock will not be stopped minus a couple of exceptions.
The OHSAA and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association have been discussing the possibility of going to a running clock for more than a year. Neighboring states Michigan and Kentucky are among the more than 30 state associations that have adopted and implemented a running clock provision for football.
"First and foremost, this was proposed out of concern for player safety," said OHSAA assistant commissioner Beau Rugg in a release from the OHSAA. "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."
Rugg's duties with the OHSAA include heading up football, wrestling and all officiating.
There are four reasons for the clock to be stopped once the 30-point differential has been met:
*An official's time-out is called either for an injured player or following a change of possession.
*A charged time-out is called.
*At the end of a period.
*A score occurs.
The clock will start again on the ready for play signal for the first play after the above situations. If the losing team gets closer than 30 points on the scoreboard, normal clock procedures will resume.
"This takes the decision-making situation out of it for the coaches," said Rugg. "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."
Mike Pavlansky, head coach at Canfield and president of the OHSFCA, said the new rule comes with some reservations regarding the individual game situations and potential experiences for players but that the underlying focus on overall player safety is understood.
"The concerns we have as an association is that when a game gets out of hand you're really limiting the amount of playing time for those non-starters, for the JV-type kids," said Pavlansky. "If you're in a state championship game and you've got a running clock the last 16-and-a-half minutes, now you've got people scrambling to those kids in there and maybe they don't get a chance to play now. Under the old rules you'd have more time to get them in there and get some playing time.
"We understand what the association has done as far as the safety factors are concerned and we're looking forward to working with them and monitoring the progress of the new rule this year."
Pavlansky said the coaches association also wants to see how possible comebacks are affected. Even though the clock rules revert to normal once a team gets under the 30-point threshold, said Pavlansky, whatever amount of time was lost using a running clock can't be made up.
The new rule will be in effect for postseason games as well as regular season games.
There were 217 playoff games last season in Ohio's new seven-division alignment; 32 teams qualified for the postseason in each division with five rounds of game culminating in the state championship finals. Of those 217 games, 61 of them (28.1 percent) were decided by 30 points or more. That includes the Division VII state final between Maria Stein Marion Local and Glouster Trimble, a game in which Marion Local won 33-0. Under these new rules, the final 16:33 of the game would have been played with a running clock.
The state finals in Division II (Loveland 41-23 over Cleveland Glenville) and Division VI (Kirtland 44-13 over Haviland Wayne Trace) would also have had a running clock at various times in the second half because of point differential.
The Division IV tournament had the fewest 30-point games, with six, while Division III, Division VI and Division VI each had 11 games decided by 30 or more points. Division I had eight 30-point playoff games, five of which occurred in the first round. Of the 61 games in question, 32 of them were first-round matchups.
There was a six percent increase in 30-point playoff games from 2012 to 2013 to go along with the new divisional alignment. A total of 41 of the 186 playoff games (22 percent) in 2012 were decided by 30 points or more, although none of the state final games would have fallen under this new rule.
Cincinnati Mariemont coach Kurry Commins is the OHSFCA representative for the association's Region XVI. Mariemont was a playoff team in Division V last season and plays in the Cincinnati Hills League, an eight-school conference in which all eight football programs are either Division IV or V. Commins previously coached at Mount Healthy (Division II) and Oak Hills (Division I) in the Cincinnati area.
"From my perspective, it doesn't matter where you're at because I can remember countless times being on both ends of this," said Commins. "I think it does help the coach take away that awkwardness. I'm a firm believer that it's my job to prepare my guys but at the same time there are sometimes where you're completely out-manned and for the betterment of the game and everyone involved, for the safety, I think it's a good move."