Football Officiating > State-Specific Topics (Texas Not Included)

Massachusetts switches to NFHS rules

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And smarter! yEs:

Not sure I buy the change is likely due to potential lawsuits, especially as it relates to blocking below the waist. If that were the case why do we still have it in NCAA & NFL. There's a lot more money to go after there then in high school football. Plus Rogers Redding has consistently said the NCAA hasn't been banned because there are no statistics that show blocking below the waist creates a large amount of injuries. However I will admit as an official it would make our job a lot easier if it was not part of the game at all levels.


--- Quote from: ElvisLives on December 12, 2018, 04:04:35 PM ---Just a guess, but it seems logical: Blocking below the waist.  Massachusetts may have seen the potential for liability for an/some injury/injuries caused by blocks below the waist, even if legal as permitted by NCAA rules.  Not at all a stretch for an attorney to make the argument that the governing organization should have recognized the potential for injury due to such blocks, and either made all blocks below the waist illegal, or switched to NFHS rules. 
"This poor boy had his entire future stolen from him by this governing body, which chose to ignore the evidence, and allow actions that are obvious to any reasonable person as being clearly dangerous."  Or something like that.


--- End quote ---

I was talking with an AD last week and while the AD did not mention blocking below the waist, the threat of lawsuits was a concern because if someone was injured "because the MIAA was ot using playing rules written for high school athletes" that may be grounds for a lawsuit.

Actually, I think baseball, one of the other sports where the MIAA is making the switch, is the one where a lawsuit might have been more likely. Mass. currently uses MLB rules with some modifications (mostly allowing aluminum bats and changes in the substitution rules) and there is no rule limiting pitch counts or innings pitched as there is in NFHS rules, so I could see a situation where a kid blows out his arm and the family sues because there was no rule keeping the coach from pitching him too much. (Though Legion and other amateur groups use modified MLB rules and have rules limiting pitches or innings).

Looks like there could be some problems.

Joe Stack:

--- Quote from: clearwall on December 12, 2018, 01:17:53 PM ---Not a lawyer or anything, but what is the reasoning for this change? I know the article says it avoids possible litigation, but unless there is a threat of one, what possible litigation could you have by choosing to use a specific ruleset over another? What about sports that DONT have an NFHS rulebook? Are you still under threat of litigation because of that? I dont see how that is a justification. "NFHS addresses sportsmanship, fairplay..." so does the NCAA. This seems baffling to me

--- End quote ---

As a lawyer, I can speak to this fairly intelligently, I believe. The threat of litigation throws people into serious panic attacks. When it comes to schools, municipalities, and most other government ORGANIZATIONS, the threat is low or almost non-existent. That doesn't always carry over to the INDIVIDUAL actors of those organizations (the liability of which can vary by jurisdiction -- i.e. individual states or federal) but that's often viewed as small potatoes as Donald Trump would say (in regards to the USFL). (Clearing throat sound). Plaintiff lawyering 101 says sue defendants who can pay a judgment, preferably those insured. Individuals may or may not be insured; schools are but can most certainly pay judgments. However, as stated, they are usually protected by statute.

So, why is there a perceived threat of litigation you ask? Well, anyone can FILE a lawsuit and it does cost some resources to actually answer it. I can file an answer to a frivolous claim in a matter of hours. in Texas, sports officials are protected by statute so if I as an official am sued (or if anyone on my crew is) I will file an immediate answer asking for sanctions and attorneys fees. Most of you can't do that -- I mean, you CAN, but you don't know to or don't know how to. You're too busy freaking out over the suit itself once you get served. Hey, that's understandable. Lawsuits can be intimidating to most people. Not to me, but I'm not most people. I'm a (previous) litigation attorney who's been involved in literally thousands of legal cases in one form or fashion involving anywhere from hundreds of dollars to multi-millions. I've won some, lost some, and had some rained out.

Sorry for the legal lesson which wasn't asked for, but the bottom line is that the state has nothing to worry about with respect to legal liability. First, football rules are not inherently negligent, and if they were, blocking below the waist would be down the list of such rules. The nature of the game would essentially have to be rule negligent (i.e. tackling, hitting, and blocking that in any way involves the head) before we got to BBW. Second, no one is hiding the fact that football is the physical sport that it is. We didn't start playing it this week. It has been around in one sort or another for over 150 years. I've seen kids as young as 6 play tackle football. Third, by far the most serious injuries that have occurred in football have nothing to do with blocking in general or BBW specifically. They mostly involve neck injuries and tackling. Finally, it makes little sense to argue what is and will remain legal against one type of player (a runner) is inherently dangerous against another type of player (blocker or defender). All football codes allow a runner to be brought down by ANY means other than a facemask, targeting, or other personal foul type hit. Yet, it is somehow negligent for a state to allow BBW in SOME form on the field?

I know states have different negligent laws and I've seen some doozies of court decisions over the years, but that would rank up there as quite stupid. I don't think a state supreme court would attach itself to such a decision. However, in today's political climate with the right kind of justice there, who knows.

Again, sorry for the dissertation here. Open to other legal opinions or questions/thouhts from non-legals who have a different view. Just make sure that if you've "heard" from an attorney friend who has a different opinion that you didn't misunderstand him or her. I had a problem with that on another forum.


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