It’s Official: Here’s the lowdown on get-back

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

Back to football, but first &045; go vote. I’ve been asked to explain the sideline control rule, which officials know as the get-back rule. It is covered in the NCAA Football Rules Book under Rule 9 Article 5.

First, it might help the fan to learn something about the markings on a football field.

The playing field is surrounded by a line 12 feet out from the sidelines and end line. Between that and the sideline, there are marks every five yards, and these are six feet from the sidelines.

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You might have noticed the chains and down marker are kept at those markers. No one or object other than the chain crew is supposed to be in the 12-foot area.

Between the 25-yard lines on each side of the field there is an area six feet in front of the 12-foot line which is designated as the coaches’ box. Coaches are required to stay in that box, but in reality you know the rule is seldom enforced.

However, when coaches, players and others crowd the area next to the field, it becomes a danger not only to those on the field but to themselves.

This is when you’ll seen an official stop the clock and give a sideline warning. He will stand facing that team’s area and with his arms outstretched to the side will wave a get back to that team.

No penalty is involved for the first two warnings, but the third carries a five-yard penalty and thereafter the penalty is 15 yards. Often the warning is more to quiet down a coach than for his encroachment.

Those who watched the Ole Miss-South Carolina game Saturday saw the disputed safety called against the Gamecocks when their quarterback retreated to his goal line to retrieve a loose ball then threw the ball away to avoid a loss, which resulted in the referee correctly flagging him for intentional grounding.

The referee awarded Ole Miss a safety, ruling the ball had been thrown from South Carolina’s end zone.

Television replays seemed to show the player was still in the field of play, in which case the Gamecocks would have retained possession at that spot with a loss of down.

The only thing I think the referee could have thought was the ball itself was still behind the goal line when it was released, which would have made his ruling a safety because it would not have mattered where the player himself was standing.

I am sure South Carolina Coach Lou Holtz burned the ears of Supervisor of Officials Bobby Gaston Monday about that call.

Many thanks to Mike Tatum for the clippings from the Dallas papers about conference realignment.

They included much inside information about WAC and C-USA teams that we don’t really get over here.

The smaller conferences such as the Sun Belt and others will be scrambling to pick up schools to fill out their rosters, which will open the doors for some independent smaller Division I schools to affiliate with those conferences.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and form Natchez resident. You can reach him at