OHSAA believes in mercy

First Posted: 5/24/2014

The recent approval of a competitive balance proposal on the fourth try was the biggest news to come out of the Ohio High School Athletic Association in a long time.

But the institution of an official “mercy rule” in football that will start a running clock once a team gets 30 points or more ahead in the second half next season might be a close second.

If the margin goes below 30 points, the clock wlll go back to running normally. But if it stays above 30, the game will end sooner and you’ll get home a little earlier.

In the past, if both teams agreed to a running clock it could be used. But this makes it a part of the rule book.

Only four things will stop the clock once the mercy rule is invoked: 1. An official calls timeout for an injured player or a change of possession; 2. A timeout by either team; 3. The end of a quarter; 4. A score occurs.

From what I’ve observed, there was no great demand for this. But the OHSAA called it “the right thing to do.”

“First and foremost, this was proposed out of concern for player safety,” Beau Rugg, the OHSAA’s assistant commissioner in charge of football, wrestling and all officiating, said. “Lopsided games aren’t good for anybody. The risk of injury goes up and it can be a tense situation for coaches and players. The length of games is also a topic of conversation at the national level. This is just the right thing to do.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

If the blowout is similar the Lima Central Catholic against Xenia Woodrow Wilson in the 1980s when Woodrow Wilson’s players wanted no part of trying to tackle Jimmie Freeman and Shane Foster, by all means, go to a running clock. Or just end the game early in the second half, like the two schools did that night at Lima Stadium.

But not all blowouts are created equal.

Lima Senior would have had a running clock turned on twice last fall in what was its best season in more than a decade – in a 70-26 loss to Toledo Central Catholic and in an 83-28 loss to Toledo Whitmer.

The Spartans were a 5-5 team. They were competitive every game except those two. Some of their younger players could have lost playing time that could be valuable in the future with a running clock.

If this had been in effect at the college level – and no one is suggesting that it will ever be adopted there – Ohio State would have had a running clock the entire second half in a 76-0 win over Florida A&M, in a 63-14 win over Penn State and in a 56-0 win over Purdue last season. The running clock would have gone on with 4 ½ minutes left in the third quarter of a 42-7 win over San Diego State.

If ever a game deserved a running clock it would have been the Florida A&M game. On the other hand, Ohio State fans seemed to enjoy the 49-point humiliation of Penn State immensely and had no problem with the length of that game.

Personally, if the OHSAA is going to address clock issues, it’s not football I’d start with. I’d rather see it do something about how the final two minutes on the clock in high school basketball games always take 20 minutes to play.

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