Ask the Official: Illegal hands to the face is more than incidental contact

By Bill LeMonnier | Posted 12/3/2015

USA Football Rules Editor Bill LeMonnier is a former college referee who currently serves as an ESPN NCAA rules analyst. Click here to ask Bill a question. Make sure to put “Ask the Official” in the subject line.


On illegal hands to the face along the offensive and defensive lines, what do you look for to signal a penalty and not just incidental contact?

If the contact is continuous or prolonged, it is a foul. Normally, you’ll see the opponent’s head bent back.

This type of contact makes the legs weak and endangers the player being contacted. If the hand goes on and immediately off, there’s no foul. If it’s a shot or a blow type of contact, then it’s a foul for hands to the face.

How long has face guarding been illegal in high school football?

I honestly don’t know. Face guarding for non-contact defensive pass interference in high school was there when I started officiating back in 1973.

There has been discussion about making it a contact-based foul rather than a non-contact foul, and while I support this change, to my knowledge it has never gone beyond talk that I’m aware of.

When calling this penalty, simply reaching up should not be a foul. Now, if a player not playing the ball and in desperation is waving his arms to block the view of the ball, then you throw the flag.