Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: UIL allows refs to call out player numbers on penalties
Offensive linemen toil in obscurity, battling defenders in a position that is more grunt than glamour. But thanks to a rule change, high school linemen are now getting more recognition.
But not in a good way.
Holding, offense, No. 58, 10 yard penalty ...
If you’re at a high school game in which the head referee has a microphone, you probably noticed that penalty announcements now include the player’s number. The University Interscholastic League now allows it, and so does the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, although only a few of its games will include a ref with a microphone.
“To be perfectly honest, I wish they wouldn’t do it,” Richardson Berkner coach Jim Ledford said. “It can be an embarrassing situation for an athlete at this age. They’re not getting paid for this.”
The UIL uses the NCAA rules for football, but each year it has a list of exceptions to the rules. In 2004, the NCAA began allowing officials to include a player’s number with the penalty announcement. The UIL restricted its officials from doing the same until this year, when it decided that a player’s number could be included to better inform coaches and fans at the game.
Officials at high school football games in Colorado also began including a player’s number this year, but few other states, if any, are doing it. The UIL pointed out that it’s consistent with other sports, such as basketball and soccer. The rule change is also helpful for television coverage of high school games and broadcasts on the radio and Internet, and it makes an official’s ruling more transparent.
“I really don’t have a problem with it,” Sachse coach Mark Behrens said. “As a coach, I want to know who it is so I can correct it.”
Coaches have always been able to ask officials for the number of the player who committed the penalty, but sometimes it took a while for a sideline official to get the information to a coach.
“It’s three plays later,” Behrens said, “and I’ve forgotten about it.”
Most likely, fans will also quickly forget what player drew the penalty. But high school players should be treated differently than those in college and the pros, South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson said.
“If it’s unsportsmanlike conduct or something, then they kind of brought it on themselves,” he said. “But if it’s just a kid jumping offsides or accidentally grabbing a facemask, I don’t think it’s appropriate at this level. I don’t think we need to be pointing out their mistakes.”
Often the biggest mistakes in football don’t need to be pointed out. A running back fumbles, a quarterback throws an interception, a kicker misses a field goal. But at least those players have the chance to shine in the spotlight.
For the linemen, especially on offense, the spotlight won’t be kind.
“A lot of people think that the game is all about the skill positions, but it’s really won in the trenches,” Ledford said. “These guys are busting their tails all the time and they get no recognition. The first time they’re getting recognition, it’s negative.”
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