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Stop the fight

May 1, 2019 GMT

The Indiana High School Athletic Association went a long way in eliminating many of the issues of hurt feelings and bruised egos in one-sided football games Monday, passing a proposal from the Indiana Football Coaches Association to implement a mercy rule in games.

“It’s the right thing to do, no doubt about it,” New Prairie coach Russ Radtke said. “I’ve been in games where we were down 63-8 and I wanted to keep playing, but that was a semistate championship. It’s a little different now. If a team was offered the opportunity to do it, it was always the team that was behind. If you’re going to keep playing your (starters), I’m forced to keep playing mine so I’m not playing my sophomores and freshmen or inexperienced juniors against seniors and run the risk of them getting hurt.”

The rule, which goes into effect with the 2019 season, was a joint effort between the IHSAA and IFCA to expedite the conclusion of games when a certain point differential is reached. With the vote, when the point differential reaches 35 points in the second half, the game clock will convert to a running clock with the exception of timeouts, scores and injuries. Once implemented, the clock may not revert back to standard timing regardless of the score and coaches will not have the ability to override the implementation of the mercy rule. The 40-second play clock will remain in effect throughout the contest.

New Prairie associate head coach Bill Gumm, the IFCA assistant coach representative, likes how the rule removes the gray areas that inevitably arise in blowouts.

“It was really needed, so I’m glad they were finally able to get it worked out,” Gumm said. “Now the coaches can’t say no. It gets the game over quicker and keeps the scores down, which is important to the game. We don’t want to run the score up, but it’s not fair to young kids when you put them in a game to tell them to run out of bounds. Some teams don’t even have enough kids so they don’t have No. 2s.”

The Cougars encountered that scenario in this season’s sectional with South Bend Washington, when the Panthers coaches opted to keep a regular clock, and there was some tension late in the 56-7 game. Michigan City had a number of games where the rule would have been utilized, notably a 72-19 thrashing of Munster in the sectional.

“It’s absolutely the worst thing we deal with,” Wolves coach Phil Mason said. “Run the clock, get it over, let the young kids play (JV) on Saturday.”

South Central coach Buzz Schoff is on board as well.

“It’s something that definitely needed to be done,” Schoff said. “I think 35 points is right where it needs to be and it only takes effect in the second half. It will relay speed up the game and not allow the game to get too out of control, without coaches having to make the decision to have a running clock.”

One remaining ambiguity Gumm hopes will be eventually cleared up is the verbiage on how younger players’ quarters are distributed.

“They allow for six quarters, but the terminology isn’t real clear,” he said. “It’s clear that you have four to play for sub-varsity, it just doesn’t say whether you can use them between freshman and JV. If they want to try to save freshman football in the state, we need to try to clean that up.”