NFHS Rules for Four Spring Sports Will Not Change in 2021

Even with many of its fall seasons still in doubt, the rules-making arms of the major amateur sports associations continue to look ahead to make sure there is no disruption in play when sports do inevitably return.

The most significant is the decision by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to not publish new rules (both print and digital) for 2021 in the sports of baseball, softball, track and field, girls’ lacrosse and boys’ lacrosse. This means that because very few schools were able to compete in these sports prior to the March shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, competition in these sports in 2021 will be conducted under 2020 NFHS rules.

“Since most schools were not able to practice or play a game in these sports, we thought it was best to carry the 2020 rules publications forward to next year,” says Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “Our rules committees in these sports will conduct virtual meetings this summer but will not be approving any additional rules changes.”

Among the five aforementioned sports, a total of eight 2020 NFHS publications will be used for the 2021 season, including the Baseball Rules Book, Baseball Case Book, Softball Rules Book, Softball Case Book, Track and Field/Cross Country Rules Book, Track and Field/Cross Country Case Book, Girls Lacrosse Rules Book and Boys Lacrosse Rules Book.

In addition, the 2020 NFHS Simplified and Illustrated Rules and 2020 Rules by Topic books for baseball and softball produced in concert with Referee Enterprises Inc. (REI) will be used in 2021 as well.

The NFHS Baseball Umpires Manual and the NFHS Track and Field/Cross Country Officials Manual will be published this year as scheduled since these are two-year publications.

As a result of this change, the NFHS will be working with its member state associations to fulfill needs for additional 2020 spring sports rules publications in advance of the 2021 season.

  • Also regarding rules for upcoming seasons, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel recently approved two rule changes regarding jersey numbers for the 2020 football season.

The panel approved a rule that restricts the number of teammates wearing the same jersey number to two. The rules regarding players using duplicate numbers continue to require that they play different positions and are not on the field at the same time.

The Football Rules Committee recommended this adjustment to reduce the confusion caused by multiple players wearing the same number. Allowing more than two players with the same number has created confusion for the game officials and has made scouting opponents difficult.

Also, in response to the popularity of single-digit numbers, players can now wear “0” as a legal number.

  • In one other minor rule change, NFHS determined that the USA Swimming checkmark logo is now an acceptable suit marking in high school swimming. The alterations for the USA Swimming checkmark logo were made to the uniform code under Rules 3-3-3 and 3-3-4c regarding accepted and prohibited manufacturers’ logos. The mark signifying approval from the international governing body for aquatic sports, FINA, is also considered an acceptable suit marking.

“This rule is a clarification of what the swimming community may see on suits this fall as a result of a rule change made by USA Swimming,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee. “A small checkmark will be positioned next to the FINA marking on some suits and is not considered as an additional manufacturer’s logo or advertising.”