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Your Team Has Been Warned, But Not Your Fans (11/8/2005)

It’s official. Unofficially that is, if your team was in or still is in the playoffs your team has been warned.

No, we ‘re not talking about possible eliminations from the playoffs by defeat, but given a sideline warning from the IHSA before your game even started.

For those fans of high school football that go to more than just their home teams games, you may have noticed, along with those of us at IHSFW & other media figures that the sideline warning flags have been flying this playoff season.

In each of the over a dozen games we’ve covered in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs, we’ve noticed that there was a sideline warning given, usually in the first half to each team.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sideline warning, it’s a non-loss of yardage penalty against either team due to coaches or players being on the field after the snap. It’s usually given when a coach or player is on the field or the out of bounds line while the ball is in play, but hasn’t interfered with the play in anyway.  It’s a lesser form of the Sideline Violation, which is a 5 yard penalty.

There are some technical aspects of who on the sidelines can stand where. For instance, there’s the team box, the area that stretches from both 25 or 30 yard lines where the players, coaches, trainers & other team personal are suppose to stand. And press, along with other people who are suppose to be on the sidelines are not to stand.

Some fields have a line behind the sideline that is about 1 yard back, where the players & everyone else, but 3 coaches, are suppose to stand. This allows for officials to stay out of the way of sideline plays & give the chain gang room to move quickly up & down a field.

This is also where the majority of flags seem to be coming from, when players & coaches get to close to the field, not actually going onto the field.

After talking to a couple e of refs at games during the 2nd round, we’ve been told by a few unnamed refs that the IHSA has in fact, either sent out a memo or contacted all the post season refs informing them that they must call a sideline warning on each team during a game.

After browsing several referee themed message boards, ( I’ve even come across post like this one below from an Illinois ref talking a few years ago about the IHSA.

“The IHSA said a similar thing to football officials about enforcing sideline conduct with sideline warnings. They have made it clear to enforce these rules rather strictly or potential for [for work in] the playoffs might be effected.”

While it’s hard for us to chastise the IHSA for it’s efforts to help game play, I will say that they may have touch on something accidentally that has been a problem for years & is only getting worse. Or just missed the reason people have been complaining about the sidelines.

The IHSA most likely is responding to complaints from officials & crews that have had to deal with numerous teams that have a sideline following to rival their fans in the stands. Certain schools tend to let just about anyone on their sidelines & the worst part about this is that these people aren’t part of the team.

Meaning they roam about on the sidelines from endzone to endzone unchecked and sometimes with little respect for people who have reason to be there. I’m talking about former players, alumni & random parents who clog up the sidelines out side the teams box.

These people must think that they’re to good to be sitting in the bleachers or standing around the fence. These same people will complain on the side line about how their school isn’t getting the press the deserve are the same people that will walk out in to the field to see a play going down field, jumping in front of a TV cameraman or photographer.

I’ve seen frustrated coaches yell for these people to get back or go in the stands, but it’s rare. It would be great to see the IHSA issue a memo next year before the playoffs to the schools, that school officials must make sure any person on the sidelines is in the team box or have a sideline pass giving them reason to be there.

While it may frustrate coaches, a sideline warning or violation should come from the refs for these folks who fail to stand in the team box. I know it can be hard for a coach to tell former players & parents that they can’t come on the field, but if you don’t want them in the team box than they should be in the stands, not getting in the way of the sideline crews & photographers.  

So if you're on the field & the coaches don't want you in the team box, chances are the officials don't want you on the sidelines either. You are only putting players in harms way by forcing people with camera equipment or first down markers closer to the field.

Vincent Johnson







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