Why isn't this a false start?
September 18, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

NCAA football question: In college football, the offense will often get to the line of scrimmage, and then everyone will turn and look at the sidelines for the play. Why isn't this considered a false start? Are the players not considered "set" even though they're standing still at the line of scrimmage? It just always looks odd to me when I see the entire offense, including the linemen, suddenly turn to the coaches (or to the signs and placards) for instructions. Looks like a false start.
posted by jackypaper to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to the big official rules here:

"ARTICLE 4. a. If a snap is preceded by a huddle or shift, all players of the
offensive team must come to an absolute stop and remain stationary in their
positions, without movement of the feet, body, head or arms, for at least one
full second before the ball is snapped (A.R. 7-1-4-I) [S20]."

On the next line, it says:

" However, it is the responsibility of an offensive player who moves before the snap to do so in a manner that in no way simulates the beginning of a play."

It looks like as long as they come back and wait the second, they're fine. As long as they don't move before the snap like they're ready to take it AND they hold for a second before the snap, they're fine.
posted by SNWidget at 2:28 PM on September 18, 2011

they aren't set. QB can't stand all the way under center, lineman can't put a hand on the ground (i think- might be wrong about that one. def the case in the NFL) offensive players can't act in a way that simulates a snap.
The standing under center thing is part of why this has become more common as more teams work mostly out of the shotgun. Also why the three point stance for o-lineman is less common.
posted by JPD at 2:43 PM on September 18, 2011

As mentioned above, it comes down to visible intent. For example, if this occurs after a call of "Set!" during the snap count, then just about any move is interpreted as a false start. With or without the call, you still need to stop moving. If only a few guys were moving while others remained set, then again, there's a visible intent to start the play and you're violating it. But if no one was set, you can't say they're trying to fool anyone.

However, it is the responsibility of an offensive player who moves before the snap to do so in a manner that in no way simulates the beginning of a play.

This caveat also exists to allow the quarterback to simply turn his head, such as when calling an audible, to make himself heard.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2011

SNWidget has it. They are not simulating the start of a play.
posted by outlaw of averages at 10:37 PM on September 18, 2011

There's one more part that is much harder to tell from TV viewing that isn't included in that particular rule. If the QB were to yell "Set!" or some other cadence to indicate the snap AND the team, including the offensive lineman were to move to look towards the sidelines it goes to the Umpire's judgement to determine if it is a false start. The Umpire is the official in the best position (7 yards behind the defensive line) to hear a QB try to do a false start to draw the defense offsides. The penalty is not often called, but I have seen it happen. The penalty is usually called in lower levels; Div-I and NFL players won't attempt that sort of play to draw a very weak offsides penalty.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:10 AM on September 19, 2011

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