The Litter Box: Pass Interference; College is the only one who has it right!
Hey Gang, Larry the Sports Cat back from an extended vacation of chasing mice and taking naps. But now I have to chime in on this ridiculous Pass Interference controversy at all levels of football except frankly college. College is the only one who has this right and the other two, NFL and High Schools need to wake up and go back to a reasonable rule that doesn’t put so much pressure on a referee in the NFL and doesn’t bail out bad defensive play in the high schools.
First off offensive P-I is a no brainer and not a problem at any level. A 10 or 15 yard penalty and you get the down over, easy-peasy, leave it alone. The problem is defensive interference. You go from the extreme in the NFL putting the ball where the receiver would have allegedly made the catch which varies from 1 yard to literally a 99-yard potential penalty and an automatic 1st down. This puts officials in a horrible position knowing a close call can literally be changed with the tossing of a yellow hanky.
The opposite is true in High School where it under penalizes this infraction. It is a 15-yard penalty or half the distance to the goal but NOT an automatic 1st down. This is not a big problem except when the 1st down marker is more than 15 yards or as you approach the goal line.
Here is what I mean. In high school let’s say you have a 4th and 30 and time is winding down so the offense is going for it. The receivers jukes the defensive back and breaks free is wide open. The DB closes the gap and tackles the receiver prior to the ball arriving and a flag for pass interference is called. This is likely a game saving move by the defender willing to take the penalty instead of giving up the big play. The DB is even more incentivised to commit the foul because the penalty is 15-yards from the line-of-scrimmage and repeat the down. So the offense who may have had a game winning play snuffed out with an illegal move now gets to face a 4th down and 15. the defense is still in great position to close it out.
Here’s the other example and the one more relevant, at least in my view. The Tumwater T-birds Tight end Cade Otton is a 6’6 specimen and tremendous athlete. He and QB Noah Andrews have connected several times this season by simply throwing up a high pass and let Otton go get it the most recognizable play was the game winning catch against Bellevue with time expiring.
Otton caught a high pass in the back of the endzone this past week against Black Hills. The ball was on the 8-yard line and if the Wolves DB had simply pushed Otton out of the back of the endzone you would think he would be called for PI but 1st that’s not even a given. But let’s say they did and drew the flag. That would have prevented the TD and Tumwater would have gotten the ball moved to the 4 and the down over, not an automatic 1st down. Now anything can happen, a false start, a holding call, a fumble or the team decides to try another play that is not successful. Are the odds still in your favor to score? Yes, but it also gives the defense more chances to get out of a jam they got themselves into.
This is not enough of a penalty that would discourage defenses if they were smart especially in the play-offs to coach up their DB’s to interfere in the endzone if they even think for a second they’re beat. This is the same as the NBA’s Hack-a-Shaq where you intentionally foul a player who can score but is terrible at the free-throw line. In high school they have the flagrant foul rule where if you intentionally foul to prevent a score the player gets the free-throws and the team gets the ball back so even if he misses they get the ball back.
College has this rule right. In the NCAA defensive pass interference is a spot foul up to 15 yards. So if the interference is 7-yards down the field you don’t get the 15, you get the 7 and an automatic 1st down. If the foul is 15 yards down the field or longer you get the 15 and an automatic 1st down. This is how it should be across the board.
This relieves the pressure on NFL officials from making truly game changing calls based on an unknown. It is assumed the receiver would catch the ball but we see guys wide open and drop the ball all the time. In high school it increases the penalty to a fair level. If you are interfered with in the end-zone from the 15-yard line in would place the ball on the 1 and an automatic 1st down.
I obviously am more concerned with the High School rule and hate the change in the rule they made a few years ago to this new penalty. I am not sure the reason for the change but would love to hear the justification and why there was a need to change it from the clearly superior rule they already had in place.
Rules committees in sports are becoming more and more like government, too much of it is not a good thing. Hey High School Football, fix this! The NFL should also but they should already know better. That’s it for me, I will be back again for the post season in November until then remember Hugs not Drugs and the Sports Cat is out.