New rules: Electronic communication devices to be allowed this season

Old-school football coaches, get ready for this. Cell phones and iPads are now allowed on the sideline.

In a rule that goes into effect this season, Georgia high school football coaches and players are allowed to use electronic communication devices during the game.

Don’t expect to see players on cell phones to pass the time on the bench, but GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin, a member of the national committee that drafted the rule, could see the humor in the possibilities.

“Now instead of yelling from the stands, Joe Booster can text the coach,” Swearngin said. “With every new innovation there tends to be built-in side effects.”

Kidding aside, there is a reason for the new rule, which will allow coaches to film plays from the sideline and use video or photos to coach players on the spot. It came down from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Not all coaches like it. Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell called it too much technology, but Swearngin said it has been discussed for several years.

“The traditional hesitation had been that many schools could not afford the devices and there would be a competitive disadvantage,” Swearngin said. “As the communication devices became smaller and less costly, more and more schools had access, and it was nearly impossible for game officials to enforce the rule since violations tended to occur in press boxes, locker rooms or on the sidelines.”

Campbell, whose 42 seasons on the sidelines make him the longest-tenured head coach in Georgia, fears that the offensive coordinator will be doing film work with the quarterback after every offensive series.

Or worse, coaches could film the other sideline in hopes of stealing signals, which is illegal but harder to enforce if sideline cell phone cameras are allowed.

“You could spy on the guy calling plays and then at halftime review the signals and be hollering out to your kids what to expect,” Campbell said. “I think it’s way over the top from where I sit. We’re going to get so sophisticated that now we’re going to have to have two coaches giving signals.”

Campbell doesn’t agree that the rules against communication devices are hard to enforce. He said one 15-yard penalty would do the trick.

Parkview coach Cecil Flowe said the rule is simply a trickle down from college and the NFL, where players routinely see film or photos on the sidelines.

Flowe said he wasn’t sure how valuable the video would be, but he planned to use it simply because coaches must use every advantage that the rules allow.

“It’s going to take a mature kid to take all that down and make that adjustment in 30 seconds, but there is certainly some value in being able to show the quarterback how the defense is lining up or a lineman where the block is,” Flowe said. “Everybody is wanting every coaching advantage possible. There are a lot of techno geeks.”

Marist coach Alan Chadwick is not one of them.

In his 29th season as head coach, Chadwick said he would discuss the rule with his staff, but it wasn’t his first priority as his team prepared for its Aug. 30 opener against Clarke Central.

“I don’t even have an iPad and I’m not smart enough to know how to use one,” he said. “I’m just concerned about getting my players to block and tackle.”

Here are eight other rules that take effect this season, which begins with 56 games this week:

*Players may wear solid colored towels if they do not match the color of the football or penalty flag. Teammates must wear the same solid colored towels. The towels may have one small logo or trademark. Only white towels without logos previously were allowed.

*An airborne player making a pass reception whose forward progress has stopped inbounds and is carried out of bounds by an opponent before touching the ground is awarded a catch. Airborne players who land out of bounds without aid of defenders are not awarded a catch.

*Defensive pass interference is no longer an automatic first down. Offensive pass interference is no longer a loss of down. Both penalties remain 15 yards.

*The defensive team may not score points during a try after touchdown.

*A player whose helmet comes off during dead-ball action between downs must leave the game for one down. An official’s timeout is called.

*A player whose helmet comes off during a play shall not continue to participate in the play (block, tackle, etc.) beyond the immediate action in which the player was engaged when the helmet came off.

*It is a penalty for a player whose helmet comes off during a play to continue to participate in the play (block, tackle, running after the play, etc.) beyond the immediate action in which the player was engaged. If a ball carrier’s helmet comes off, the play is blown dead. When the helmet comes off, the player essentially must “freeze.”

*A foul is charged to any player who initiates contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come off.

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9 comments Add your comment


August 20th, 2013
7:20 am

They all seem appropriate to me. I especially support the changes to both offensive and passive pass interference. Nothing irritated me more than seeing a team on offense get a defensive pass interference call on third down and 50 and wind up with a first down when the infraction occurred behind the line of scrimmage. Even when it was awarded to the team I was supporting. Kudos to the GHSA.


August 20th, 2013
7:52 am

I like all these changes.


August 20th, 2013
10:57 am

I don’t like the new interference call, I think they should stay the same. On a defensive pass interference, does the offensive team get another play ? It could be a defensive pass interference on purpose , if the offensive team needs more than 15 yards for a first down. Think about that one.


August 20th, 2013
11:56 am

Good Rules…
Not too keen on the electronics thing …but it is what it is.


August 20th, 2013
12:18 pm

I have a lot of respect for Larry Campbell, but he was likely against leaving leather helmets and adding facemasks. The technology advancements are a good thing. Move forward.

Coffee Trojans moving up!

August 20th, 2013
6:59 pm

Agree on new rules…not to hot on IPads and cell phones.
Larry Campbell is Old School but damn great Coach.
PBJ @10:57 has a great point…would GHSA or GHSF daily answer that question?
Praying for all Georgia HS players to have great years and no-one gets hurts.


August 20th, 2013
8:40 pm

They might as well play Touch football then. taking the roughness and strategies out of the game of Football that have been around since the inception of football is going to make players soft and the game less exciting…


August 21st, 2013
5:38 am

Coach Campbell is probably afraid that those rich private schools will have a technological advantage over his little country school. There’s a better solution, Coach, just lobby the GHSA to exclude the privates from your playoffs! Oh wait…….


August 21st, 2013
7:15 am

Don’t like one part of the pass interference change. Why you ask ? Well DB on the WR 3rd and 25 and the DB is about to get beat he pulls down the WR. Flag 15 yards and no 1st down, well if he had not commited the intentional foul he would of been beaten for a say 30 yard gain or even a score.
I know now you are saying a smart play by the DB ! Well yes it is and they do it in the pros and college all the time in that situation but that results in a first down.
Sorry @CoffeeC100 Like Uncle Si says “Hey Jack lets be uniform”! First Down Offense…>>>>>
Why go to the pro rule on the catch by the WR being driven out of bounds before WR getting a foot down(which is only 1 to start with)and giving the WR a catch and not on the pass interference?
High school refs are a mixed bag at best one week they are calling your 7th grade game the next they are at your varsity game do they really need the added pressure of another judgement call?
Can you imagine now an ipad picture being held up of a call missed by the ref to the ref ? How mad is this going to make the officials at the coach that shows or tries to show him the picture of the botched call of the play on the ipad? They will probably get a sideline violation or unsportsmanlike conduct flag. I wonder if that was ever addressed? I see a couple of problems in 5 minutes that these GHSA guys probably took weeks to figure out. Most of these are good changes helmet,towels, and no loss of down but I see problems with the ipad and the judgement call.
Oh well it is finally football season again !