By John Johnson, MHSAA
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Clipping has been eliminated in high school football, the biggest playing rules change on the horizon for member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which formally begin practice for 2016-17 fall sports next week.
Practice in football must begin on Aug. 8 for all schools wishing to begin regular-season games the weekend of Aug. 25-27. Schools must have 12 days of preseason practice at all levels before their first game, and those 12 days of practice may not occur before 16 calendar days.
Practice sessions for all other sports begin Wednesday (Aug. 10). In golf and tennis, competition may commence no earlier than after three separate days of team practice, and not before seven calendar days. The first day competition may take place in golf and tennis is Aug. 17. In all other fall sports, contests can take place after seven days of practice for the team and not before nine calendar days. The first day competition may take place in cross country, tennis, soccer, swimming and diving, and volleyball is Aug. 19.
This fall, two football dates again precede Labor Day, and a number of MHSAA schools will play their first varsity games on Thursday, Aug. 25. In Week 1, 131 varsity games will be played on Thursday, 169 contests will be played on Friday, and 17 games will be played on Saturday. In the second week, 245 games will take place on Thursday, 62 will be played on Friday and 6 contests are on Saturday.
Eliminating clipping from the high school game is the latest step in the national playing rules promulgated by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Clipping previously was permitted in the free-blocking zone when it met three conditions; however, clipping is now illegal anywhere on the field at any time. According to the rule, the free-blocking zone is defined as a rectangular area extending laterally 4 yards either side of the spot of the snap and 3 yards behind each line of scrimmage.
A few notable changes will go into effect for other fall sports:
• In cross country, a participant who assists an injured or ill competitor when the appropriate health care professional is not available no longer will be disqualified from the race; only the runner receiving assistance will be disqualified for not finishing the race unassisted.
• In soccer, changes were made to the offside rule that makes it match offside rules for the NCAA and FIFA/USSF. The most notable change states that a player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save) is not considered to have gained an advantage and can move ahead toward attempting to score a goal. A player who does receive the ball while in offside position after a deliberate save remains offside, and the result is an indirect kick for the defending team.
• Also in soccer, eliminating of rough play will be a point of emphasis this school year. Rough play including contact above the shoulder often results in player injury.
• In volleyball, a change to rules on uniforms aims to make the libero more recognizable from all angles. Beginning this fall, the libero, her teammates, or both will be required to wear a solid-colored uniform top; the libero’s top must clearly contract the predominant color(s) of her teammates’ uniform tops. Also related to the uniforms, soft hair devices, formerly no more than two inches in width, may now be up to three inches in width.
• Also in volleyball, a service toss that contacts a basketball backboard or its supports in a vertical position over the serving area is a service fault and not eligible for a re-serve. The opponent receives a point and the next serve.