It was a busy day for the IHSAA on Monday.
Not only were the new sectional alignments announced, but several key rules changes for football were approved.
The primary new rule will make Friday nights for some fans and teams shorter as this fall will see the adoption of a mercy rule
Under the rule, games in which two teams are separated by 35 or more points at any point in the second half will automatically adopt a running clock for the remainder of the contest. This rule cannot be negotiated or changed and only comes into effect after halftime.
“This is not a coaches discretion thing,” said Snider coach Kurt Tippmann, who was involved in the creation of the rule proposal with the Indiana Football Coaches Association. “The purpose is to get the game over with. The rule is to try and keep from embarrassing anybody.”
The new rule, which has already been adopted in many other states around the country, has been met with praise by coaches around the state. It will not revert back to a normal clock if the margin shrinks inside 35 points. The clock will stop after scores and for injuries and timeouts.
“The mercy rule has been a long time coming, we are one of the last states to adopt it,” said Angola coach Andy Thomas. “It allows teams that are struggling to get through a rough situation a little quicker and try to get on with the process of regrouping.”
Piggy-backing off the mercy rule is an increase in eligible playing time for players from five quarters per week to six. This will allow more liberal substitutions of junior varsity players in the second half of blowout games. Due to the “eligibility week” beginning on Fridays, varsity coaches had to be strategic in how they inserted reserves into lopsided contests due to JV games being played on Mondays.
Players inserted into varsity games that have gone to a mercy rule in the second half will have just one quarter counted of their six allotted, even if they play both the third and fourth quarters.
“I love it,” said Columbia City coach Brett Fox about the change. “This allows for teams to still be competitive on a Friday night and for player development to continue to happen at the JV level as well.”
This is of paramount importance for smaller programs that may not have the personnel to field a lot of reserves on Fridays.
“Right now, we are seeing high numbers throughout our program, but this isn’t the case across the board,” Fox said. “Having the quarters rule being a part of the mercy rule allows for schools to still compete at all three levels – varsity, JV and freshmen – during the week.”
Some have brought up the point that 35 points may not be a high enough differential. Despite the chances of a comeback are slim, it is possible.
“I’d like to see the 35-point difference a little higher, perhaps 40 at least,” said Concordia Lutheran coach Tim Mannigel. “I can honestly see some games where a team could still make a game interesting after being down 35.
“Overall though, it is a very good thing.”