As we look out on the football field, we see the four or five game officials dressed in their traditional striped shirt and white knickers. There are, however, several other people needed to keep the game moving smoothly. They are the line-to-gain crew and the timers.
These individuals are referred to as “assistant officials.” The officials’ manual says that the timer shall meet with the game officials prior to the game to be sure there are no misunderstandings with respect to the signals given by the game officials.
Proper clock operation is essential. Often, timing errors are not corrected early in the game, as they may appear to be “not important” at the time.
However, in the final minutes of any half, timing errors are almost always corrected. We must remember that timing errors, whenever they occur, will have an impact on the game.
We have often said that being a good clock operator requires concentration on the game. If the clock operator does not concentrate on the game, he may become a “spectator” and fail to properly time the game. The same is true for the “chain crew.” As “assistant officials,” they should meet with the linesman prior to the game to discuss the procedures the linesman wishes them to follow.
Different crews may have different procedures with respect to operation of the chain. Even though many of the people on the chain crew have been operating the chains for years, they must remember that they are not “fans,” but are “assistant officials.”
They also must be flexible with respect to the wishes of the linesman. Nothing can be more confusing than having the chains move when they shouldn’t. We use a clip on the chains to help us reset them, if they have been moved prematurely.
Most fields will now have a 25-second play clock. The back judge will determine if the ball was snapped within the allotted time.
If no play clock is present, the back judge also will time the 25-second interval after the ball is marked ready for play.
The 25-second clock operator, like the game clock operator, must concentrate on the game at all times. The 25-second play clock is now mandatory for a site to be approved for playoff games. The back judge, through a wireless transmitter, operates many of the newer “play clocks.”
High school varsity games will be played in 12-minute quarters. West Virginia has adopted the 20-minute halftime between the second and third quarters.
A mandatory three-minute warm-up time must be provided to each team. If either team fails to return to the field by the end of the 20-minute halftime, they may be subject to a 15-yard penalty. If both teams are back on the field after 17 minutes, the final three minutes of the halftime will be counted as the warm-up period.
If a period begins with a free kick, the clock will start when the kick is legally touched other than first touching by K. If the period begins with a snap, the clock will start when the ball is legally snapped.
As to when the clock will start during play depends on why the clock was stopped. The clock will start on the snap, or when a free kick is legally touched, if the clock was stopped because: a) the ball goes out of bounds; b) the defense is awarded a new series; c) either team is awarded a new series after a legal kick; d) the ball becomes dead behind a goal line; e) a legal forward pass is incomplete; f) there is a charged or radio/TV time-out; g) the period ends; h) a team attempts to consume time illegally; or i) the penalty for delay of game is accepted.
These events are called “major clock stoppers.” If the clock was stopped for any other reason, the clock will be started on the “ready” signal.
There are, of course, minor exceptions to these rules. If there is a penalty on the play, the clock will start as determined by the end of the play as if there were no penalty.
If there were a normal running play ending in bounds, the clock would not stop.
If there were a penalty on the play, the clock would stop to administer the penalty and then start on the “ready” signal, as the only reason for stopping the clock was to administer the penalty.
If, however, the runner were out-of-bounds, the clock would have stopped because the runner went out of bounds.
If there were a penalty on that play, the clock would not start until the “ready signal” because the clock was stopped regardless of the penalty.
We will continue this look at the timing rule next week and talk about required player equipment.
Don’t forget to send questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a good week.