clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rules Curiosities II : Ragnarok's Favorite Penalties

In part I of this investigation, I delved into some of the stranger, more obscure areas of the college football rulebook.  Today, we'll be looking at some of my favorite penalties, PLUS I'll tell you how to score exactly one point in a football game.

I'll admit, I have an affection for strange penalties; in fact, the more absurd, the better.  Sure, your typical roughhousing penalties are fun and all (Striking, Kicking, Keeing, Elbowing, Piling on, Tripping, Clipping, Hurdling, Spearing, Stepping, jumping or standing on opponent, etc.), but I find myself amused by more...bizarre infractions.  Such as these:

Planned loose ball play.

Rule 7-1-7 reads:

A Team A player may not advance a planned loose ball in the vicinity of the snapper.
PENALTY—Five yards from the previous spot and loss of down.

That's too bad.  I think this is an awesome play.  Check it out, back when it was still legal:


Coin-toss infractions.

Say it out loud.  "Penalty : Coin Toss Infraction."  Go ahead, try and take yourself seriously.  Is this not the dumbest possible thing you could get penalized for?  For the record, here's the ruling:

During the coin toss, each team shall remain in the area between the nine-yard marks and its sideline or in the team area. The coin toss begins when the field captains leave the nine-yard marks and ends when the captains return to the nine-yard marks.
PENALTY—Five yards from the succeeding spot.

Disconcerting offensive signals.

Defensive verbal tactics that disconcert offensive signals.

I remember the first time I heard a referee call a penalty for "disconcerting signals".  My first reaction was, "What the hell is that?"  My second was to bust up laughing at what a ridiculously-named penalty.  How does this go?  Defensive player jumps forward, yelling, "Ooogahboogah!  HaHa, you're now disconcerted!"?

Snapper's position and ball adjustment.

My new favorite.  Say this one out loud, and try not to snicker.

Penalty : Illegal Ball Adjustment.

This handily beats out "Illegal Touching" and "Illegal Use of Hands" as the most suggestive penalty name.  I'm sure I'll be obnoxiously yelling this one out at a game in the near future.

Simulating roughed or run into.

I.e., Flopping.  More common in basketball or soccer, it is still illegal in football.  Just remember, if you're going to flop, be sure to sell it.


Now *that's* an Oscar-worthy performance.  -  Image via

Obscene or vulgar language.

Penalized for trash talk?  Seriously?  Has anyone actually seen this penalty called?

Engendering ill will.

I'll give the rulebook writers credit:  they came up with one crazy-ridiculous way of saying 'Being an A-Hole'.  The official list is quite a litany -- some highlights (favorites in bold):

No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
(a) Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat.
(b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally.
(c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition.
(d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).
(e) Obviously altering stride as an unopposed runner approaches the opponent’s goal line, or diving into the end zone when unopposed.
(f) Removal of a player’s helmet before he is in the team area (Exceptions: Team, media or injury timeouts; equipment adjustment; through play; between periods; and during a measurement for a first down).
(g) Punching one’s own chest or crossing one’s arms in front of the chest while standing over a prone player.
(h) Going into the stands to interact with spectators, or bowing at the waist after a good play.

Goodness, that's quite a list.  Really, I'm not that creative; this list reads like a bunch of really creative ideas to do next time I totally dominate at backyard Badminton.


*This* is engendering ill will?  -  Image via

How to score a single point in a football game:

I've always wondered if it was possible to finish with a score of just 1 point in a football game, and after reading through the rules, I've now figured out how.

Two ways, actually.  The first way is really a technicality; if one team forfeits, the other team officially wins by the score of 1-0.  That's not very fun, is it?

OK, here's the real way.  After a touchdown, the team that scored gets a one-down try period, during which they usually kick an extra point, which is technically a one-point field goal.  During this try period, however, either team may score.  Touchdowns are worth two points, whereas field goals and safeties are worth one.

So, to score exactly one point, a team must give up a touchdown, and then, on the resulting try, force the other team to commit a safety.  Easy, right?  Not really, when the ball is on the completely wrong end of the field for such a score.  Here's what has to happen:

First, the defensive team (team B) has to gain possession of the ball, either from blocking an extra point, or getting a turnover on a two-point conversion attempt.  They then have to run the ball back to the other end of the field, but they can't score a touchdown, which would net them two points.  Before reaching the end zone, the ball must be fumbled again.  However, they can't simply fumble it into the end zone, as that would result in a touchdown if they subsequently recovered it there, or a touchback if the other team (team A) recovered it.  No, to score a safety, team A must be responsible for the ball going into their own end zone, usually by hitting the ball after team B fumbles, and then must recover in their own end zone, resulting in a one-point safety that gives one point to the other team.  Got all that?

If no other scoring occurs, the final score would be team A winning 6-1.  It's fabulously improbable, but this information might just help you settle a bar bet some day.