30Q-2-KICKOFF (No. 16): Have mercy

We begin the second half of our journey to the beginning of the season. Over the next few days, you’ll see a few posts from Ben Enos that he’s written up and scheduled to post. I say scheduled because while we’re hammering away on football previews and kids are busting their butts in two-a-days, Ben is sitting on a beach in Hawaii!! Unbelievable! I kid, have a good time Ben. Continuing on, we’re going to look at a new rule across the CIF that will certainly affect some games you see this season. Yes, football is mandating a mercy rule.

Here’s the official wording.


At the conclusion of the third quarter or any point thereafter, if there is a point differential of 35 or more points, a running clock shall be instituted for the remainder of the game regardless of the score. The game clock shall stop only for a score, a free kick following a fair catch or awarded fair catch, a charged team timeout, a coach-referee conference or an officials’ timeout. This bylaw applies to all levels of play. (Approved May 2011 Federated Council)

That’s a biggie. It affects just about every team out there, be it the teams that dominate or the teams that get dominated. There’s not a ton for me to talk about on this subject, but I want to open it up to the comments section to see what you guys think. Is this something football needs?

This isn’t a completely new concept. The mercy rule have been used by some leagues and some sections. But it hasn’t been a blanket rule. In some cases, it was used if both coaches agreed to it before the game. But now, it’s a blanket rule across the CIF, approved by the CIF Federated Council. What affect will it have? Well, amazingly enough, the CIF Open Division Bowl Game would’ve used the running clock last year during De La Salle’s all-out blitz against Servite. That tells you how dominant DLS was. But we’re sure to see it quite a bit in the regular season.

The people most impacted are going to be the backup players that see a good chunk of their playing time in blowout games. Those games will wrap up a little quicker and there will be less playing time for them. From a sports writer’s perspective, I have to say I like this rule because it’ll help the games finish quicker and allow us time to make deadline on our stories. But I’m sure none of you care about that much (nor would I expect you to). So have at it. What do you all think of this new rule?

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.

  • Prep Fan

    Overall, it is probably a good rule. I thought the old rule was fair to have the coaches decide when it should be implemented, but I guess there are always going to be coaches out there that will never agree to it. The rule is in place already for youth football, and Basketball has a similar mercy rule for 40 points or more, I don’t recall anyone having a problem with it.

    As you mentioned, the main effect it will have will be reduced playing time for backups, who may only see the field during blowouts. I don’t think coaches will be putting in subs any quicker due to the new mandate, so if the game is shortened, that means less time for the backups. I guess now that backups instead of hoping their teams score another TD to go up by 35 so they can get in quicker, they’ll hope for a FG to keep it under 35 and hope to still get in. Not a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but it is a step closer to softening the game.

  • Billy Jackson

    I think it is good not to embarrass the kids

  • ManDown

    Personally I do not like this rule. In football, teams only get to play one game a week so I don’t think you should limit the time players get to play. Like it was noted earlier some backup players will not get that extra time to play as they work hard all week to do so. Its a shame what they are doing to these kids. So what happens if a team keeps scoring after they’re up by 35 or more?


    i think what you will see is a more balance in some offenses stats…i know of many leagues that has been using this rule for years and some even start it at halftime.

    i will be curious how the team stats show up this year with all leagues participating this rather than rack up serious stats vs weaker opponents and make their offenses look better than they are.

    other than that let the kids play! i see both sides of this though..in games where teams are severly overmatched you would hope the winning team would have the 2nd and 3rd stringers in right away, but i know that doesn’t happen for some teams. this will now take away even more PT from the backups…

    but like any rule in life…takes a few bad apples to force a rule like this on everyone. if everyone played with a little more sportsmanship in these games wouldn’t have to. i am not saying to just not try or run the ball up the middle everyplay on offense..if you can still score with your backups then so be it SOL for the opponent that isn’t prepared. But if it is being done with starters well into the 4th quarter than shame on the coaches.

    as much as i hate to admit it..DLS is one team that has always played w sportsmanship in this manner..they don’t let their starters rack up stats in games they have completely in hand.

    one team that comes to mind last year was Concord. Did they have a great offense? absolutely no doubt one of the best in the bay area last year, but they also let lloyd and those WR’s rack up stats late in games when it was already well in hand.

    how else can you throw the ball 40 times in a game you win by 50.

  • Zonacat93

    Mercy rule? Spartan Mercy Rule sounds more like it.

  • Dudleydawson

    What happen to playing a little defense!? I’m not for running it up but if you have your backups in and are running the ball what’s the problem stop somebody! Feel bad for those guys on scout team.

  • I suppose it better than having one team take a knee on offense at the beginning of the third quarter…

  • Prep Fan

    It only kicks in at the end of the 3rd quarter. DLS is routinely ahead by more than 35 points in the 3rd quarter so their subs will probably still get some quality playing time, but not as much as they have in the past.

  • Patrick

    Newman had a surprising early use of the mercy rule tonight against Concord, where, with a 35 to 0 lead at the start of the fourth, the running clock was instituted. Having seen it first-hand, I’m no longer in favor of it. You have good teams like Concord that get a bit outmatched, but have oportunities to score a few points to make the score less lopsided. I think the referees should decide when to implement it. Believe it or not, sometimes games aren’t as close as they look, and big scores shouldn’t shorten the few good games where things just can’t go right for a team.