College Football/Touchdown


QUESTION: When a players with the ball and a part of his body crosses the touchdown line is it touchdown?  In this example his head, shoulders,and upper body clearly cross the line but the football held at the waist does not cross the line.  His knees and feet are not down in the field of play or the endzone.  Does he have to have a foot down inside the endzone for it to count as a touchdown even-though the ball never crosses the line?   Thanks in advance for your help.   
If a player catches a pass at the endzone marker and his foot just comes down in the endzone but the caught ball is outside the endzone is this a touchdown?  Thanks again!

ANSWER: James,

By rule, a touchdown ruling is very simple.  In practice and at live-game speed, it is not so simple.  

By rule, a when a live ball penetrates the plane of the opponent's goal line, it is a touchdown.  The positioning of the player's body makes no difference (other than if it is out-of-bounds).  The ball is the important piece.  In addition, the plane of the goal line is only between the pylons, UNLESS the player is touching the ground in the end zone or a pylon.  In that case, the plane extends beyond the pylons.  So, for example, if a player jumps from the two-yard line, and the ball passes well outside the pylon, but the player is able to kick the pylon with his foot before otherwise touching out of bounds, this is a touchdown by rule.  

So, according to your question, if the ball never crosses the line, it is not a touchdown under any circumstances (save one rarely-used (aka almost never-used) rule about a referee being able to award a touchdown for an unfair act by the defending team; i.e., a player coming off the sideline to tackle a runner who would have easily scored).  

Same answer for your pass question.  If the ball never crosses the goal line, it is not a touchdown.  Remember, however, that such goal line extends beyond the sidelines provided that the player is touching the end zone or pylon with a part of his body.

I hope that helps!

Bill Robers

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Bill very helpful.
What if the receivers feet (college game) are in the end zone but the caught ball is outside the end zone?  For example an end zone sideline or a back of the end zone pass.  Thanks again,  Jim


As long as the ball has crossed the goal line extended (which reaches all the way around the world), and the receiver is touching down in the end zone, it is a touchdown.  Again, also a touchdown if the receiver's foot (or other body part) touches the pylon, provided that the receiver received the pass and touched inbounds first (the pylon is out of bounds in the end zone).  

As long as it is beyond the goal line plane (extended beyond the pylons), and they touch a body part in the end zone, it is a touchdown.

Thanks for the question!

Bill Robers

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William Robers


I can answer rules questions and officiating questions (including training, mechanics, and general questions).


College Football Official since 2005; assist in training newer officials.

Big Sky Conference Officials Association Sports Lawyers Association Rotary International

Law Degree from University of Minnesota Law School, 2001 MBA from Carlson School of Management at the U. of Minnesota, 2001 B.S. in Business Administration from Marquette University, 1997

Awards and Honors
Post-Season official in 2012 and 2013.

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