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Trick play flooding the internet is an illegal deception

By Joe Frollo Fri, 11/12/2010 - 3:48am

A youth football video that has gone viral and aired on ESPN would not be a legal play under USA Football rules.

In fact, USA Football Rules Committee editor and longtime college official Bill LeMonnier said, plays such as this one have no place in the game.

The video shows the center snapping the football over his shoulder to a quarterback, who walks through the defense before taking off toward the end zone. The deception comes in that the quarterback and his coach are arguing the spot of the ball even as the quarterback walks past defenders.

USA Football prohibits plays that are designed to confuse the defense into believing there is a problem and the snap isn't imminent. The penalty is unsportsmanlike conduct and a 15-yard, basic spot foul as found on pages 172-73 of the rule book.

LeMonnier said beyond being illegal, the play undermines the core of what should be taught to players.

"We're trying to teach young people about the game of football -- about respect for the game, respect for opponents," LeMonnier said. "Plays such as this one are demeaning to your opponents and show a lack of respect."

See the illegal play here.

LeMonnier said the snap was legal in that the ball was transferred in one fluid motion. Linemen were set and in place when action began.

It's the verbal deception that crosses the line, and it sends the wrong message to children.

"As adults, you are not only teaching kids the Xs and Os, but they also watch you every day," LeMonnier said. "You don't realize the important things these kids see you do and what they pick up. Plays and approaches like this are not the things we want emulated. Coaches should teach players how to do things right rather than glorifying these plays."

Trickery is a part of football, LeMonnier said, as long as it comes within the play itself. Whether running a reverse, bootleg or flea flicker, teams often employ natural forms of deception.

"It's about fooling your opponent," LeMonnier said. "But taking the ball from center and saying there should be 5 more yards of a penalty or saying you've got the wrong ball then taking off or hiding a player near the sideline ... those aren't football plays."

The following language appears in the current USA Football Rulebook. For more about USA Football policy toward unfair acts, see the PDF attached to this story.

It is a fundamental core belief of USA Football that coaches demand sportsmanship from their players and, equally important, lead by example. Coaches must always remember that the players look to them for positive life skills and values.

With that in mind, USA Football takes the position that coaches should refrain from teaching their players and teams techniques and plays that have no place in youth sports. Examples of deceptive plays include but are not limited to "hideout" plays or "wrong ball" plays.

Strategic deception has been and always will be part of football, such as multiple shifts, unusual formations and creative plays. However, actions or verbiage designed to confuse the defense into believing there is a problem and a snap isn't imminent, or planned loose ball plays, are beyond the scope of sportsmanship and are illegal. Respect your opponent. Respect the game.


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USA_Football_Pages_172-3.pdf 69 KB

USA Football policy on unfair acts