2019 NFHS-NCAA rules conference recap

By Marty Maciaszek
NSGA Team Dealer Division Director

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (April 24, 2019) - The annual National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and NCAA Rules Conference offers the opportunity to learn about impending or potential rule changes and hear about issues related to uniforms and equipment.

Here are some insights from the April 23 meeting in Indianapolis on football, basketball, baseball, softball, lacrosse, wrestling, NOCSAE and the NCAA on Technology and Sports Gambling.



Jersey Numbers: The NFHS Rules Committee hopes to remove one of the three available designs for boys' and girls' jersey numbers at its late April meeting, according to Theresia Wynns, NFHS Director of Sports and Officials Education. Wynns said they would like to do away with the option that allows the number to be the same color as the uniform as long as the number is outlined, because it can become difficult for game officials, administrators and spectators to determine the number. NFHS will also provide advice to those who ask about the best constrasts of number and uniform colors.

School names and logos on jersey: School names and official school nicknames are allowed on the front of the jersey. A lettering or acronym is allowed if it pertains to the particular school. For example, Lawrence North High School in Indiana could use the lettering LNHS or Dundee-Crown High School in Illinois could use DCHS on the front of its jerseys. The school logo can be used but not "front and center" above the number on the front of the jersey. The school logo can be used on the shoulder or the V-neck of the jersey.

Jersey gray scale: Wynns said there have been no basketball uniform changes for a number of years but the use of gray is another issue. Anything from 70 percent to 100 percent on the NFHS gray color spectrum chart would be considered a dark visiting uniform and anything below 70 percent to 0 percent would be considered a white home uniform.

Uniform designs: The NFHS said it is happy to look at uniform designs and it's helpful if they receive three views (front, back and side). A lot of times they don't get the side view.

Basketball color: In effect now with NFHS is the color of the basketball matching the color of the NCAA basketball. The ball composition definitions between NFHS and NCAA read differently but are essentially the same thing.

Tonal shifts in jerseys: The NFHS does not allow tonal shifts and jerseys must be one single, solid color.

Colors of accessory products: The NFHS said there is also some consideration of player arm sleeves and tights for legs going to black and white. Currently any color is allowed.


School name or nickname on jersey front: The NCAA may go the direction of the NFHS and permit "arching" of the school name or nickname above the number if the first and last letters of the name are on the same horizontal plane. NCAA uniforms must be horizontal with all letters on the same plane. NCAA women's basketball rules liaison Rachel Seewald said under current rules there are uniforms not in compliance.

Uniform designs: The NCAA said it is happy to look at uniform designs and said it's helpful to receive three views (front, back and side). A lot of times they don't get the side view.

Jersey numbers: The men's and women's jersey numbers must be in distinct contrast to the jersey. The NCAA has clarified in its rules that a border is not part of the number and is regarded as an optional piece.

Shorts and coloring: The shorts must have a perceptible majority of the game color in what is referred to as the "neutral zone" of the jersey (primary area below the neckline and shoulder panel). Seewald said when you look at a pair of shorts you should be able to say the majority color is black, blue, white, etc... and it shouldn't be a 51-49 percent type of breakdown.

Tonal shift of jerseys: The NCAA is trying to address how to handle the 15 percent tonal shift allowed in the neutral zone of the jerseys, according to NCAA men's basketball liaison Dan Calandro. The NFHS does not allow tonal shifts and jerseys must be one single, solid color.

Colors of accessory products: The NCAA is more permissive on colors of accessory products and two years ago allowed that headbands, wristbands, sleeves and tights can be white, black, beige or any color contained in the fabric of the jersey.

Special occasion jerseys: NCAA women's basketball liaison Rachel Seewald said they are seeing issues with the "one-off" special occasion jerseys because they are more creative but not always in compliance with the rules.

3-point line: There are discussions about moving the women's 3-point line back from 20-feet, 9-inches to the International distance of 22-feet, 1 3/4-inches used in Olympic and International Basketball Federation (IBF) championship events. A change would affect on-court marking of the 3-point line.

Wearable technology: NCAA is receiving more and more requests about wearable technology products.



NOCSAE baseball, chest protector standards: The NOCSAE standards for baseballs and chest protectors for catchers designed to prevent commotio cordis go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. A certification period for a time limit on the life of NOCSAE-approved chest protectors has not been discussed at this point.

Other issues: NFHS suffered a loss of nearly 4,700 boys players from 2018 but the number of girls playing is growing. NFHS baseball liaison Elliot Hopkins said there continues to be a struggle with the use of wearables during play.


Baseball bat rules: The rule that the barrel of the bat is a contrasting color to the baseball goes into effect Sept. 1, 2019 for the 2020 season.

Required barrel compression testing during a regular-season series or single game also goes into effect for Division I play on Sept. 1, 2019 for the 2020 season. Testing goes into effect for Division II and III for the 2021 season.

NCAA baseball liaison Ben Brownlee said they are working on a baseball bat style guide.

NOCSAE chest protectors: Brownlee said there is a recommendation - but not a formal one - to go to the NOCSAE chest protector for the 2020 season.



Rule reminders from last year: A shield must be clear if it is attached to a defensive player's head and/or face protection. An adjustable knob is permitted on the bat.

Additions: NFHS softball liaison Sandy Searcy said it appears Wyoming will start sanctioned softball play in 2021. That would leave South Dakota as the only state without softball.


NCAA rule proposals: The NCAA softball rules committee meets in June to consider proposals. One would require uniforms and undergarments to contrast wtih the color of the yellow ball, according to NCAA softball liaison Ashlee Follis. Softball bats are required to be color contrasting to the yellow ball.

There is also a proposal to allow attachments to the knob/bat for in-game use. Currently they are allowed during practice.

There is another proposal to allow players to wear digital communication devices if they don't use the Internet to receive signs.

USA Softball

USA Softball unveiled its new certification marks in mid-April for USA Softball championship play. The certification marks, which are visible on all bats and balls on USA Softball's Certified Equipment, have been approved for immediate implementation. Colleges and high schools will be notified of the USA Softball mark as well.




Football Jersey Numbers Rule 1-5-1c(3): For 2019, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) exclusive of any border(s) shall be approximately 1 1/2 inches wide.

Football Jersey Numbers Rules 1-5-1c and 1-5-1c(6): Effective for the 2024 season, the entire body of the number (the continuous horizontal bars and vertical strokes) shall be a single solid color that clearly contrasts with the body color of the jersey.

Gray shades of home team jerseys Rule 1-5-1(b)3: Effective in 2021, jerseys of the home team shall be a color that clearly contrasts to white. Certain gradients of gray will not be permitted, according to NFHS football rules liaison Bob Colgate.

Vegas Gold color football jerseys: Colgate said there are still considered home jerseys but the NFHS football rules committee is looking at this.

Color of officials' game shoes: Some white accents are now allowed on the black football shoe that game officials wear as part of the game official uniform. This was approved in January 2018 by the 2018-19 NFHS Football Game Officials Manual Committee.

40-second play clock: NFHS is going to a 40-second play clock but Colgate said schools do not need to install a visible clock. California does not allow schools to have a visible clock.

Instant replay: Postseason instant replay is now allowed if a state association chooses to adopt it.

Officials: Colgate said there is concern over declining numbers of football game officials and having enough officials to effectively administer games in some areas.


Game pants: Three years ago, rules were adjusted, with a delayed implementation, to ensure the player pants covered the knees. There has been better adherence to the rule, according to NCAA football liaison Ty Halpin.

Uniforms: Halpin said for the first time the NCAA collected uniforms from all its schools and looked at every aspect of them. He said there were very few non-compliant uniforms and they worked closely with conferences on a strict adherence to the rules.

Helmet: NCAA gets a lot of questions about helmet enhancements. Halpin said if the helmet goes through the NOCSAE process and is certified it is legal.

Mouthpieces: There is no specific standard but Halpin said some coaches don't like some of the accoutrements they are seeing (teeth and other designs). There are no changes but Halpin said this has drawn some attention.

7-on-7 skull caps: There are no rules for this, but 7-on-7 is an area NCAA is starting to get more involved in, particularly with how it is affecting current and prospective student athletes.

Changes for 2019: The two-man wedge was eliminated for kickoffs and Halpin said they will have side committees look further into kickoff safety. Blind-side blocks with forcible contact were eliminated, alternating 2-point plays instead of starting another drive at the 25-yard-line. 

150th Year of College Football: Halpin said most player jerseys will have a patch commemorating the anniversary.


Commotio cordis standards: Starting in January 2021, US Lacrosse boys and girls youth field rules, which are used by NFHS, will require all goalie chest protectors to meet the NOCSAE performance standard ND200 for commotio cordis. In 2022, all boys field players will have to wear commotio cordis protection meeting the NOCSAE standard. The NCAA will have to go through a formal adoption process this summer for men and women, for a rule requiring commotio cordis protection to go into effect in 2021.

NCAA jersey numbers: As of Jan. 1, 2022, the jersey number must be a color in distinct contrast to the color of the jersey, irrespective of the border.

Clarifying the NCAA standard name for lacrosse: There was a discussion on changing the NOCSAE ND200 standard name, "Standard Test Method and Performance Specification Used in Evaluating the Performance Characteristics of Chest Protectors for Commotio Cordis," to make it clearer for the consumer. It was recommended that it includes lacrosse to differentiate from baseball and other sports.

NOCSAE executive director Mike Oliver said they will make sure if and when the name is changed "it doesn't open a door they didn't intend to open." There was some discussion on the need for clarity, is it a chest protector or heart guard to account for the differences between protection for goalies and field players.

Women's eyewear: US Lacrosse and NFHS said they are getting frequent inquiries from girls players at the high school and college levels who cannot find prescription eyewear options meeting the ASTM standard. Consumers can't find anything on the market to get it at the high school level and above. There doesn't seem to be much interest in the manufacturing community to make a product, because they don't see a great demand, but the concern among US Lacrosse is the potential of losing players at the older ages who have to play with prescription eyewear.



Uniforms: Rule changes dealing with uniform requirements, which ensure male and female wrestlers are properly attired on the mat during competition, were approved by the NFHS Board of Directors and announced April 25. All contestants wearing a one-piece singlet shall wear a suitable undergarment that completely covers the buttocks and groin area. Female wrestlers wearing a one-piece singlet shall wear a form-fitted compression undergarment that completely covers their breasts.

Shoelaces: If shoelaces come undone, the penalty is an automatic stalling call.

Hair treatment items: In Rule 4-2-1, hair treatment items that are hard and/or abrasive, such as beads, bobby pins, barrettes, pins and hair clips, shall not be permitted. A legal hair-controlled device such as a rubber band shall be secured so as not to come out readily during wrestling.

"Hair that is manipulated poses no threat to either wrestler," said NFHS wrestling liaison Elliot Hopkins. "It is neither abrasive nor cumbersome. However, physical hair treatments do present a risk to either wrestler due to the hardness, texture or abrasiveness, and should not be allowed."


NOCSAE executive director Mike Oliver discussed a variety of topics:

Flag football: Oliver has been asked by a governing body to look at a potential standard for head and face protection in flag football. He said there is a concern for facial injuries as well as head injuries. Oliver mentioned a study of 3,500 kids to be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine regarding soccer headgear showed no association between wearing one of five different types of devices and the likelihood of a concussion or severity of the concussion.

Football shoulder pads: Oliver said he has also been asked to consider a standard for shoulder pads in football.

"It's not easy," Oliver said. "The question is, what is the injury they are trying to prevent? We don't know."

Oliver said there is a suggestion, based on data from the NFL, that the shoulder is one of three or four primary impact points for a concussion.

"Hits with the shoulder are causing shoulder-to-helmet impact," Oliver said, "so maybe the role of the shoulder pad is not to protect the shoulder, but as a source of additional padding to protect the head, and that makes some sense."

Oliver said no meetings have been set yet to discuss a shoulder pad standard. They probably won't occur at NOCSAE's summer standards meeting in July in Boston, but it's on the radar.

Softball defensive face protection: Oliver talked about defensive position players in softball wearing a strapped-on facemask. NOCSAE has standards for head and head and face protection in softball and baseball. The softball is larger and harder than a baseball and the forces are substantial. But NOCSAE doesn't have a standard allowing for just face protection (it is permitted but not required by NFHS).

Oliver's concern is, "Why should position players have less protection than catchers (helmet and mask) and/or baserunners (helmet wth mask)?"

Baseball helmet cheek/jaw flaps: Oliver addressed the use of cheek and jaw flaps on baseball batters' helmets - including attachments such as the C-Flap and helmets with the protection built into the product. They have been permitted for use in high school baseball this season by NFHS.

"The pros are fond of it and they can do whatever they want to," Oliver said. "Will we develop a standard for it? Probably not. Ethically how do  you justify going from 100 percent protection (helmet with cage) to 25 percent?"

Oliver said with an add-on product it is the right of the helmet manufacturer to withdraw the helmet's certification if it so chooses.

SEI Certification of Baseball and Softball helmets: There was also discussion regarding SEI certification of baseball and softball batting hemets. Oliver said SEI started the certification requirement in 2016 and in 2017-18 there were a total of 6 million brand new batters helmets certified with and without a face mask. There is some question on how many batters helmets, catchers' masks and umpires' masks are compliant with the helmet manufacturer's guidelines for length of use.

NCAA - Technology and Sports Gambling

Dan Calandro, NCAA Director of Playing Rules & Officiating, said one area the NCAA is concerned with is equipment technology and the impact on how data could be used in sports gambling. Calandro cited areas such as proposition bets that could be influenced by data about athletes, coaches, teams and officials.