Is pylon actually in bounds?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I received a question from an old friend about a scoring play seen earlier in a NFL game. It seems that a ball carrier, striving to score a touchdown, dove for the corner where the goal line and the sideline intersect.

He apparently reached out and touched the pylon marking that intersection, even though the rest of his body was out of bounds. As he was not ruled down until he touched anything in the end zone or out of bounds, he was ruled to have scored a touchdown.

The covering official had to have ruled that the ball, while in the runner&8217;s control, had penetrated the plane of the goal line, even though it was extended beyond the sideline.

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The pylon is out of bounds and in the end zone, so when the ball carrier touched it he was out of bounds. But if the ball was extended in front of him, it could have penetrated the goal line (extended) before he touched the pylon.

Under NCAA rules, that action would result in a touchdown. Except for the distance between the sidelines and the hash marks, field dimensions and markings are the same for the NCAA and the NFL.

The play in question would be most difficult for an official to call. He would be watching closely to see if the runner touched the sideline, penetrated the goal line or to see the location of the ball when either of those things occurred.

The play would be unusual because the natural tendency of the runner is to hold the ball close to his body rather than out front where losing control is likely. Officials do need to be prepared for a play like that because, as all officials know, what can happen usually does happen.

It seems the high school basketball season still has a while to go. MPSA teams play district, South and North state, then state, then Overall tournaments. Public schools follow much the same format, climaxed by a two-week state finals tournament in the Mississippi Coliseum. The system does afford basketball officials the opportunity to extend their seasons.

I understand the MHSAA now forbids players from participating in more than one sport at a time, so those schools whose players play basketball and who are still in the running for state titles will have to either delay the start of their spring sport or will have to go ahead without some of their players.

When officials reach the major college level, the different sports conflict seldom exists. College basketball officials, who usually officiate for several different conferences, might officiate 70 to 80 games a season, which leaves little time for officiating another sport.

There were a few guys officiating both football and basketball when I started with the SEC, but both of those seasons have grown so long now I don&8217;t think any of those iron men remain.

And that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and a former Natchez resident. Reach him at