Rule 1 The Game, Field, Players and Equipment
SECTION 1. General Provisions
a. The game shall be played between two teams of not more than 11 players each, on a rectangular field and with an inflated ball having the shape of a prolate spheroid.
b. A team legally may play with fewer than 11 players, but a foul for an illegal formation occurs if the following requirements are not met:
1. When the ball is free-kicked, at least four Team A players are on each side of the kicker (Rule 6-1-2c-3).
2. At the snap, at least five players wearing jerseys numbered 50 through 79 are on the offensive scrimmage line and no more than four players are in the backfield (Rules 2-21-2, 2-27-4 and 7-1-4a) (Exception: Rule 7-1-4a-5)
Approved Ruling 7-1-4 IV. Team A, with fourth and eight, sends two substitutes numbered 21 and 33 into the game as exceptions to the mandatory numbering, and they are positioned legally on their line of scrimmage between the end players on the line of scrimmage. After the ball is snapped, a Team A player, 15 yards deep in a scrimmage kick formation, throws a legal forward pass to an eligible receiver for a 10-yard gain. RULING: Legal play (Note: The same play from a field goal formation is legal).
Approved Ruling 7-1-4 V. A33, an exception to the mandatory numbering rule, assumes a position on the line of scrimmage next to end A88. Before the snap, A88 moves to a backfield position and the flanker on the opposite side of the line moves to an end position on the line. RULING: Illegal formation. Since A33 is now an end, he is thus in an illegal position at the snap (live-ball foul). Penalty—five yards, previous spot.
Approved Ruling 7-1-4 VI. A33, an exception to the mandatory numbering rule, assumes a position on the line of scrimmage to the left of snapper A85, who is on the end of the line. All other Team A players on the line are to A33’s left. After a one second stop, all players on the line except A85 legally shift to the other side of the ball, with A33 now positioned as an end. RULING: If the ball is snapped with A33 in this position, it is a foul for an illegal formation. A33 may not legally be on the end of the line at the snap. Penalty—five yards, previous spot.
ARTICLE 2. Goal lines, one for each team, shall be established at opposite ends of the field of play, and each team shall be allowed opportunities to advance the ball across the other team’s goal line by running, passing or kicking it.
Winning Team and Final Score
a. The teams shall be awarded points for scoring according to rule and, unless the game is forfeited, the team having the larger score at the end of the game shall be the winning team.
b. When the referee declares that the game is ended, the score is final.
ARTICLE 4. The game shall be played under the supervision of the game officials as specified in Rule 11.
ARTICLE 5. Each team shall designate to the referee not more than four players as its field captain(s). One player at a time shall speak for their team in all dealings with the officials.
Persons Subject to the Rules
a. All persons subject to the rules are governed by the decisions of the officials.
b. Those persons subject to the rules are: Everyone in the team area, players, substitutes, replaced players, coaches, athletics trainers, cheerleaders, band members, mascots, public-address announcers, audio/video/lighting system operators, and other persons affiliated with the teams or institutions.
Member Institutions Subject to the Rules
a. NCAA member institutions and affiliated officiating organizations shall conduct all contests under the official football-playing rules of the Association.
b. NCAA-affiliated officiating organizations shall use the current Football Officials Manual published under the jurisdiction of the College Football Officiating, LLC (CFO).
c. NCAA member institutions and affiliated officiating organizations not complying with NCAA football-playing rules are subject to sanctions (See appropriate divisional NCAA Manual).
SECTION 2. The Field
Dimensions and Markings
ARTICLE 1. The field shall be a rectangular area with dimensions, lines, zones, goals and pylons as indicated in Appendix D.
a. All field-dimension lines shown must be white and 4 inches in width (Exceptions: Sidelines and end lines may exceed 4 inches in width, goal lines may be 4 or 8 inches in width, and Rule 1-2-1g).
b. Twenty-four-inch short yard-line extensions, four inches inside the sidelines and at the hash marks, are mandatory; and all yard lines shall be four inches from the sidelines (Rule 2-12-6).
c. A solid white area between the sideline and the coaching line is mandatory.
d. White field markings or contrasting decorative markings (e.g., team names) are permissible in the end zones but shall not be closer than four feet to any line.
e. Contrasting coloring in the end zones may abut any line.
f. Only these contrasting decorative markings are allowed: conference logo, NCAA logo, college or university name and logo, and team name and logo. These are permissible within the sidelines and between the goal lines, under these conditions (See Appendix D):
1. The entirety of all yard lines, goal lines, and sidelines must be clearly visible. No portion of any such line may be obscured by decorative markings.
2. No such markings may touch or enclose the hash marks or numbers.
3. A single decorative marking, centered on the 50-yard line, and a maximum of four smaller flanking decorative markings are allowed.
g. Goal lines may be of one contrasting color from the white lines.
h. Advertising is prohibited on the field except as follows:
1. For postseason and neutral-site games the title sponsor whose name is associated with the name of that game may advertise on the field, with the restriction that there be a maximum of three such advertisements: a single advertisement centered on the 50-yard line and no more than two smaller flanking advertisements. These advertisements must adhere to paragraph f above. No other advertisements, either by the title sponsor or by any other commercial entity, may be on the field.
2. The NCAA Football logo is permitted.
3. If a commercial entity or individual has purchased naming rights to the stadium, facility or field, that entity’s or individual’s name/company-specific font or logo may be painted on the field in no more than two of the flanking locations and will count in the total of the maximum of four flanking locations allowed.
Approved Ruling 1-2-1 I. A commercial entity or individual has purchased naming rights to the stadium, and a separate corporate entity has purchased naming rights to the field. RULING: If both corporate entities are to be displayed on the field, then each of the corporate entity’s name/company-specific font or logo may utilize separately one of the four available flanking locations, for a total of two locations.
i. White field yard-line numbers not larger than 6 feet in height and 4 feet in width, with the tops of the numbers nine yards from the sidelines, are recommended.
j. White directional arrows next to the field numbers (except the 50) indicating the direction toward the nearest goal line are recommended. The arrow is a triangle with an 18-inch base and two sides that are 36 inches each.
k. The two hash marks are 60 feet from the sidelines. Hash marks and short yard-line extensions shall measure 24 inches in length.
l. Nine-yard marks 12 inches in length, every 10 yards, shall be located nine yards from the sidelines. They are not required if the field is numbered according to Rule 1-2-1i.
Marking Boundary Areas
ARTICLE 2. Measurements shall be from the inside edges of the boundary markings. The entire width of each goal line is in the end zone.
a. Limit lines shall be marked with 12-inch lines and at 24-inch intervals 12 feet outside the sidelines and the end lines, except in stadiums where total field surface does not permit. In these stadiums, the limit lines shall not be less than six feet from the sidelines and end lines. Limit lines shall be 4 inches in width and may be yellow. Limit lines designating team areas shall be solid lines.
b. No person outside the team area shall be inside the limit lines. Game management personnel have the responsibility and the authority to enforce this rule. (Exception: Hand-held cameras under the supervision of the television partners may briefly be between the limit lines and the sideline after the ball is dead and the game clock has been stopped. This exception does not allow cameras to be on the field of play or in the end zone at any time.)
c. Limit lines shall also be marked six feet from the team area around the side and back of the team area, if the stadium permits.
Team Area and Coaching Box
a. On each side of the field, a team area in back of the limit line and between the 20-yard lines shall be marked for the exclusive use of substitutes, athletics trainers and other persons affiliated with the team. The front of the coaching box shall be marked with a solid line six feet outside the sideline between the 20-yard lines. The area between the coaching line and the limit line between the 20-yard lines shall contain white diagonal lines or be marked distinctly for use of coaches (Rule 9-2-5). A 4-inch-by-4-inch mark is mandatory at each five-yard line extended between the goal lines as an extension of the coaching line for line-to-gain and down indicator six-foot reference points.
b. The team area shall be limited to squad members in full uniform (see Appendix D) and a maximum of 50 other individuals directly involved in the game. All persons in the team area are subject to the rules and are governed by decisions of the officials (Rule 1-1-6). The 50 individuals not in full uniform shall wear special team area credentials numbered 1 through 50. No other credentials are permitted. Medical personnel are exempted from the 50-credential limit and should have a separate, distinct pass.
c. Coaches are permitted in the coaching box (see Appendix D), which is the area bounded by the limit line and coaching line between the 20-yard lines.
d. No media personnel, including journalists, radio and television personnel, or their equipment, shall be in the team area or coaching box, and no media personnel shall communicate in any way with persons in the team area or coaching box. In stadiums where the team area extends to the spectator seating area, a pass-through area should be made available for media to move from one end of the field to the other on both sides of the field.
e. Game management personnel shall remove all persons not authorized by rule.
f. Practice kicking nets are not permitted outside the team area (Exception: In stadiums where playing enclosures are limited in size, nets, holders and kickers are permitted outside the team area and outside the limit line) (Rule 9-2-1b-1).
a. Each goal shall consist of two white or yellow uprights extending at least 30 feet above the ground with a connecting white or yellow horizontal crossbar, the top of which is 10 feet above the ground. The inside of the uprights and crossbar shall be in the same vertical plane as the inside edge of the end line. Each goal is out of bounds (see Appendix D).
b. Above the crossbar, the uprights shall be white or yellow and 18 feet, six inches apart inside to inside.
c. The designated uprights and crossbar shall be free of decorative material (Exception: 4-inch-by-42-inch orange or red wind directional streamers at the top of the uprights are permitted).
d. The height of the crossbar shall be measured from the top of each end of the crossbar to the ground directly below.
e. Goal posts shall be padded with resilient material from the ground to a height of at least six feet. Advertising is prohibited on the goals. One manufacturer’s logo or trademark is permitted on each goal post pad. Institutional and conference logos are allowed.
f. The home team is responsible for the availability of a portable goal if original goals are removed during the game for any reason.
ARTICLE 6. Soft, flexible four-sided pylons 4 inches by 4 inches with an overall height of 18 inches, which may include a 2-inch space between the bottom of the pylon and the ground, are required. They shall be red or orange in color. One manufacturer’s logo or trademark is permitted on each pylon. Institutional logos, conference logos and the name/commercial logo of the title sponsor of postseason games are also allowed. Any such marking may not extend more than 3 inches on any side. They are placed at the inside corners of the eight intersections of the sidelines with the goal lines and end lines. The pylons marking the intersections of the end lines and hash marks extended shall be placed three feet off the end lines.
Line-to-Gain and Down Indicators
ARTICLE 7. The official line-to-gain (yardage chain) and down indicators shall be operated approximately six feet outside the sideline except in stadiums where the total playing enclosure does not permit. These must be operated on the side of the field opposite the traditional press box.
a. The yardage chain shall join two rods not fewer than 5 feet high, the rods’ inside edges being exactly 10 yards apart when the chain is fully extended.
b. The down indicator shall be mounted on a rod not fewer than 5 feet high operating approximately six feet outside the sideline opposite the press box.
c. An unofficial auxiliary line-to-gain indicator and an unofficial down indicator six feet outside the other sideline are recommended.
d. Unofficial red or orange nonslip line-to-gain ground markers positioned off the sidelines on both sides of the field are recommended. Markers are rectangular, weighted material 10 inches by 32 inches. A triangle with an altitude of 5 inches is attached to the rectangle at the end toward the sideline.
e. All line-to-gain and down-indicator rods shall have flat ends.
f. Advertising is prohibited on the down and line-to-gain indicators. One manufacturer’s logo or trademark is permitted on each indicator. Institutional and conference logos are allowed.
Markers or Obstructions
a. All markers and obstructions within the playing enclosure shall be placed or constructed in such a manner as to avoid any possible hazard to players. This includes anything dangerous to anyone at the limit lines.
b. After the officials’ pregame inspection of the playing enclosure, the referee shall order removed any hazardous obstructions or markers located inside the limit lines.
c. The referee shall report to game management personnel any markers or obstructions constituting a hazard within the playing enclosure but outside the limit lines. Final determination of corrective action shall be the responsibility of game management personnel.
d. After the officials have completed their pregame inspection of the playing enclosure, it is the responsibility of game management personnel to ensure that the playing enclosure remains safe throughout the game.
a. No material or device shall be used to improve or degrade the playing surface or other conditions and give one player or team an advantage (Exceptions: Rules 2-16-4b and c).
PENALTY—Live-ball foul. Five yards from the previous spot [S19].
b. The referee may require any improvement in the field necessary for proper and safe game administration.
SECTION 3. The Ball
ARTICLE 1. The ball shall meet the following specifications:
a. New or nearly new. (A nearly new ball is a ball that has not been altered and retains the properties and qualities of a new ball.)
b. Cover consisting of four panels of pebble-grained leather without corrugations other than seams.
c. One set of eight equally spaced lacings.
d. Natural tan color.
e. Two 1-inch white stripes that are three to three-and-one-quarter inches from the end of the ball and located only on the two panels adjacent to the laces.
f. Conforms to maximum and minimum dimensions and shape indicated in the accompanying diagram.
g. Inflated to the pressure of 12-1/2 to 13-1/2 pounds per square inch (psi).
h. Weight of 14 to 15 ounces.
i. The ball may not be altered. This includes the use of any ball-drying or ball-warming substance. Mechanical ball-drying and ball-warming devices are not permitted near the sidelines or in the team area.
j. Professional football league logos are prohibited.
k. Advertising is prohibited on the ball [Exceptions: (1) Ball manufacturer’s name or logo, (2) institutional logo, (3) conference/NCAA logo, (4) AFCA logo and (5) College Football Playoff logo].
Administration and Enforcement
a. The game officials shall test and be sole judge of not more than 10 balls offered for play by each team before and during the game. The game officials may approve additional balls if warranted by conditions.
b. Home management shall provide a pressure pump and measuring device.
c. The home team is responsible for providing legal balls and should notify the opponent of the ball to be used.
d. During the entire game, either team may use a new or nearly new ball of its choice when it is in possession, providing the ball meets the required specifications and has been measured and tested according to rule (Exception: The official NCAA football shall be used for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, II and III championships).
e. The visiting team is responsible for providing the legal balls it wishes to use while it is in possession if the balls provided by the home team are not acceptable.
f. All balls to be used must be presented to the referee for testing at least 60 minutes before the start of the game. Once the teams have presented the game balls to the referee, they remain under the general supervision of the officials throughout the game.
g. When the ball becomes dead in a side zone, is unfit for play, is subject to measurement in a side zone or is inaccessible, a replacement ball shall be obtained from a ball person.
Approved Ruling 1-3-2 I. On fourth down, kicker A1 enters the field with an approved game ball and asks the referee to substitute it for the ball used during the previous down. RULING: Substitution of the ball is not permitted.
h. The referee, center judge or umpire shall determine the legality of each ball before it is put in play.
i. The following procedures shall be used when measuring a ball:
1. All measurements shall be made after the ball is legally inflated.
2. The long circumference shall be measured around the ends of the ball but not over the laces.
3. The long diameter shall be measured with calipers from end to end but not in the nose indentation.
4. The short circumference shall be measured around the ball, over the valve and over the lace but not over the cross lace.
ARTICLE 3. Marking a ball indicating a preference for any player or any situation is prohibited.
PENALTY—Live-ball foul. 15 yards from the previous spot [S27].
SECTION 4. Players and Playing Equipment
ARTICLE 1. It is strongly recommended that offensive players be numbered according to the following diagram that shows one of many offensive formations:
a. All players shall be numbered 0 through 99. Any number preceded by the digit zero such as “07” or “00” is illegal.
b. No two players of the same team shall participate in the same down wearing identical numbers.
c. Markings in the vicinity of the numbers are not permitted.
PENALTY [a-c]—Live-ball foul. Five yards from the previous spot [S23].
d. When a player enters the game after changing their jersey number, the player must report to the referee. The officiating crew informs the opposing head coach and the referee announces the change. A player who enters the game after changing their number and does not report commits a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. [S27].
PENALTY [d]—Live-ball foul. 15 yards from the previous spot [S27]. Flagrant offenders shall be ejected [S47].
Approved Ruling 1-4-2 I. The Team A player who started the game wearing jersey number 77 enters the game wearing number 88. RULING: The player must report to the Referee who, without stopping the game or play clock, uses his microphone to announce the change and the relevant flank official informs the opposing head coach. If A88 fails to report it is a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.
ARTICLE 3. All players must wear the following mandatory equipment:
b. Hip pads.
d. Knee pads.
g. Shoulder pads.
i. Thigh guards.
Specifications: Mandatory Equipment
1. The helmet must be fitted with a facemask and a secured four- or six-point chin strap, all points of which must be secured whenever the ball is in play.
2. Helmets for all players of a team must be of the same color and design.
3. Helmets must carry a warning label regarding the risk of injury and a manufacturer’s or reconditioner’s certification indicating satisfaction of National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) test standards. Reconditioned helmets shall show recertification to indicate satisfaction with the NOCSAE test standard.
b. Hip Pads. Hip pads must include a tailbone protector.
c. Jersey. See Rule 1-4-5
d. Knee Pads. Knee pads must be covered by pants. Furthermore, the pants and knee pads must cover the knees. No pads or protective equipment may be worn outside the pants. (See Appendix E)
e. Mouthpiece. The mouthpiece must be an intra-oral device of any readily visible color. It must not be white or transparent. It must be made with FDA-approved base materials (FDCS) and cover all upper teeth. It is recommended that the mouthpiece be properly fitted.
f. Pants. Players of a team must wear pants of the same color and design.
g. Shoulder pads. There are no specifications for shoulder pads. (See Appendix E)
h. Socks. Players of a team must wear socks or leg coverings that are identical in color and design (Exceptions: Unaltered knee braces, tape or a bandage to protect or prevent an injury, and barefoot kickers).
Approved Ruling 1-4-4 I. A player or players of a team wear tights that cover their legs. RULING: Legal. For those players that wear tights, they must be of the same design and color.
i. Thigh guards. There are no specifications for thigh guards. (See Appendix E)
Jersey Design, Color and Numerals
1. The jersey must have sleeves that completely cover the shoulder pads. It must not be altered or designed to tear. The jersey must be full length and tucked into the pants or made even with the waistline. No other undergarment (e.g., T-shirt) shall extend below the waistline at the torso. It must cover all pads worn at or above the waist. A second jersey meeting all requirements of Rule 1-4-5 worn concurrently is allowed. Vests and/or altered jerseys with zippers, Velcro, clasps or other fasteners are not allowed.
2. Other than the player’s number, the jersey may only contain:
City and/or state of the institution;
Logo for school, conference, mascot, postseason-game, memorial, the military;
Graduate or academic recognition as part of an institutional or conference logo;
The letter “C” to identify a team captain;