College Football/Muffs


QUESTION: How can a punt be considered, "At times" a muff. When In the football rules article 5. It states that a muff must be a during a live ball?
Thus, a punt is not a live ball until it is touched by the receiving team.
Article 5. Muffs. A muff is the unsuccessful attempt to recover a live ball or loose ball. regardless whether it's a punt pass or kick.
My understanding of the rule is that a muff can only occur during a lateral, a kickoff after the ball travels the 10yds necessary to become a live ball.

ANSWER: Thanks for the question, William.

Announcers and others talk about a "live" ball meaning one that may be recovered by either team.  Don't get caught up in the belief that announcers know the rules.  By rule, a ball "becomes a live ball when it is legally snapped or legally free-kicked."  Rule 4-1-1.  Therefore, a punt is very much a live ball by rule, as soon as it is snapped, and remains so until the receiving team is declared down, it is recovered by the kicking team, or it otherwise becomes dead.

By rule, a "muff" is an unsuccessful attempt to catch or recover a ball that is touched in the attempt.  Rule 2-11-2.  So, a receiver who unsuccessfully attempts to catch or recover a punt, and who touches the punt, has muffed the ball.

I hope that helps!

Bill Robers

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

QUESTION: It was not so much about it being a live ball. It was more of the question of a MUFF being considered a fumble. I have found no exception to the rule of a MUFF. In the fantasy world 2 pts were awarded to a team for recovering a muffed punt, and it was explained to me that a muffed punt is considered a fumble. When I looked it up. The rule clearly state that a MUFF is NOT a FUMBLE. In order for a fumble to occur one team or the other has to have control or possession of the football.

To me the rules seem to be pretty vague. Why not simply say a muff is the unsuccessful attempt to recover the ball. Why say a "LIVE BALL".
Obviously you can't recover a dead ball.  
I was just wanting verification that a MUFF is not considered a fumble? Am I right or wrong? Now if I'm wrong, I need to know where that exception to the rule can be found. I would also like to know from where you are getting your information.


You are correct.  A muff is NOT a fumble, by rule.  For instance, by rule on a fourth down, if a player fumbles the ball, only he can recover that fumble and advance it.  If, however, the ball is pitched back toward a teammate, who then muffs the ball, anyone can recover that and advance it.  It is not a "fumble," but rather a "muff."  In addition, if the kicking team on a punt recovers a muff, it may not advance that muff, because it is still deemed to be a kick.  However, if the receiving team catches the punt, and then FUMBLES the ball, it may be advanced, because it is no longer a kicking play, but is now a running play.

I'm not sure where the points come from in the fantasy world.  I can only tell you the rules in the real world.  

I'm also not sure why the rules specifically provide for a muff to be only related to a "live" ball.  You are correct that you can't recover a dead ball, and also can't muff one.  

My information comes from the 2014 NCAA Football Rulebook.  


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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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