Nine local high school football teams have been penalized for breaking the new state rules, which kicked in this year, aiming to prevent excess contact among players.
Whitney, Lincoln-L, El Camino, Del Oro, Woodcreek, Sacramento, Placer, Oakdale and Inderkum high schools all faced violations.
The penalties range from teams having to forego between two and six practices. Many of the coaches of penalized teams didn’t intentionally break practice rules, according to California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac Joaquin Section Commissioner Michael Garrison, but rather weren’t clear on what the new rules meant in terms of their off-season practices.
Woodcreek high school's football team posted a video of a scrimmage at Sacramento State summer camp in June, one that eventually landed into the hands of the CIF San Joaquin Section. Though most of the plays don’t end in a tackle, the video shows play that features contact between players, which is enough for sanction.
"Outside the season there is to be no contact," said Garrison. How exactly is contact defined –Garrison admits the answer to that question is not black and white.
"Interpretation has a little bit of gray. When you see all this stuff on the peripheral, the off the ball stuff, lineman blocking, that's all contact,” said Garrison.
"It's tough, you know when it's a new rule, it's tough. We're not fighting it, we're going to take our six days,” said Justin Reber, Sacramento High School Varsity Football Coach. Reber’s team was hit with sanctions as well, however he says he doesn’t know exactly what violations his team broke.
"I know there's a couple instances where we were probably out of line but part of that is teaching the kids this is the new rule,” said Reber.
"I do not believe that any of our coaches or any of the schools that were sanctioned intentionally or blatantly disregarded the rule,” said Garrison.
CIF’s bylaw 1901 says non-contact activities include drills run at “assigned speed until the momentum of contact with a predetermined winner,” and players running unopposed without bags or opposition, and blocking drills in which players block without resistance from a teammate or coach.
The bylaw also limits contact for in-season practice to two days, and ninety minutes on each of those two days.
The CIF bylaws come from the state legislature. Assembly Bill 2127, passed in the summer of 2014, lays out strict guidelines which CIF has now put into place. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, aimed to limit player head injuries.