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Question
Can you push an opposing player off to prevent him from getting down on a fumbled ball, or must you give them a "fair chance" to recover the ball?

We had a 15 yard un-sportsman like conduct called on us today when our DE shoved the QB just as he was going down to recover a snap that went over his head.  The ref said we had to give him a "fair chance" to recover.  I've been either playing or coaching for over 20 years and this is the first time I've ever heard this one.

Answer
Roy
Thank you for your question. The short answer is Yes, you can push a player to prevent him from getting to the ball.

Pushing a player as you describe is a Block. You may legally block an opponent to get to a loose ball in a legal manor that does not violate other rules or that is an a way that rises to a personal foul.

I would need to see the play you are discussing and get some more information to try to explain it.  It sounds as though it may have been a judgment type call and in the judgment of the official rose to the level of a foul but I need to know what specific foul was called and its subcategory.  I suspect the official may not have fully articulated or explained the foul well.  The explanation of giving a fair chance to recover does not sound like grounds for a foul. Thus I need to know more about the play for a better understanding and to explain what occurred and why and whether a mistake was made. In your play the ball is a loose ball, a backward pass (snap).  Both teams are entitled to gain possession of this loose ball.  You state your team was called for unsportsmanlike conduct (UNS). I question whether this was unsportsmanlike or a personal foul.  There is a big difference.  If it was a UNS foul there seems to be other facts that I would need to know; if it was a personal foul .

But the basic answer to your question is yes it is legal to block an opponent to try to recover a loose ball.

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Victor Winnek

Expertise

Serve as an Consultant and Expert Witness in Football Litigation Matters. Issues of liability arising from injuries, workers compensation, discrimination of officials, Player Safety, Standard of Care of players, coaches, officials. -Officiating: Instruction, Mechanics, application of rules and Philosophies; Setting up Instructional programs and clinics for: Officials, coaches and media. -Coaching and Playing Mechanics. -Liability Issues: (Legal & Insurance matters) arising from coaching, playing, refereeing, product liability; Player safety; Standard of Care for Officials, Coaches, Players, Assigners, Officiating associations, conferences, board of directors, subrogation matters, workers compensation matters. Consulting: -Media education -Officiating instruction, organization structure, qualifications and standards, -Coaches education -Film evaluation, analysis and grading -Insurance coverage, risks, liabilities, workers compensation, investigations, subrogation -Vocational feasibility for Coaches and Officials -Legal education, objective analysis, discovery plans, trial and cross examination prep, -Injury analysis, cause, prevention and involvement of officials coaches and players -Expert witness evaluation and testimony -Remedial measure to minimize future risks -Fact checking and analysis for authors and media -Disciplining officials and causes for discipline

Experience

Issues of liability arising from injuries, workers compensation, discrimination of officials, Player Safety, Standard of Care; Experience: I have been on a football field in one capacity or another for the past 4 decades as a player, coach, athletic trainer or official. I hail from 4 generations of college football players, coaches and or officials. I consult: in liability and workers compensation cases related to - football; mechanism of injury matters; whether causes of action exists for on field injuries; subrogation, standard of care & negligence claims. I consult on football safety issues involving players, coaches and officials. Independent Objective Analysis - 26 years officiating High School & College football, NCAA Referee, Umpire, Head Linesman, Back Judge, Field Judge, Side Judge & Line Judge - 2 years Arena Football-substitution official - 20 years Instructor of NCAA & Federation Officials - 12 years Instructional Consultant to CFOA Executive Council - Played prep and college football - 5 years Coach High School football and Athletic trainer - 26 years receiving instruction in Officiating: classes, camps, conferences & clinics - Fox NFL Command Center, analyst with Mike Pereira Officiating Experience: 26 years of Federation (All 5 Positions) 12 years NCAA Div. 1 FCS (6 Positions, primary positions Umpire, Line Judge) 16 years NCAA Div. III, NAIA (All 7 Positions) 22 years Jr. College (All 7 Positions) Camps & Clinics: West Coast Alliance Football Officials' Clinic (PAC 10, WAC, WCFOA, NIFOA) 2010 Hawaii Officials Aloha Clinic, 2009, 2010, 2012 Big 12 Mini Clinic, Colorado Springs 2007, 2008 Western Collegiate Football Officials Association Clinic Clinician Line Judges 1999-2009 Reno Football Officials Camp 2000, 2002, 2003 Personal Touch Football Officials Camp 1995-1999

Organizations
Affiliations: National Association of Sports Officials Big Sky Conference Great West Football Conference Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Western Collegiate Football Officials Association West Coast Alliance of Football Officials California Football Officials Association Southern California Collegiate Football Officials Association American Indoor Football League President California Football Officials Association 2000-2002 President- CFOA South Bay Unit 1998-2002, Board of Directors 1991-2002; CFOA Long Beach Unit 2004-2011 Chairman Officiating Ethics Committee 1991-2011 Instructor: NCAA 1995-2003 & Federation 1992-Present Executive Council Instructional Consultant CFOA

Publications
National Association of Sports Officials California Football Officials' Training Manuals Western Collegiate Football Officials Umpire Manual Western Collegiate Football Officials Line Judge/Head Linesman Manual

Education/Credentials
BA USC 1987
JD UWLA School of Law 1996


Awards and Honors
2012 Oregon Sports Hall of Fame - 1984 Linfield College Football Team, 1984 National Championship Football Team Post Season Honors 2011 NCAA Div. III Quarter-Final, Umpire 2010 NCAA Div. III Semi-Final, Umpire 2010 Southern California Community College Championship, Umpire 2010 CIF State Championship nominee, Umpire 2009 Southern California Community College Semi-Final, Umpire 2009 CIF Southern Section Championship, Umpire 2008 Southern California Community College Championship Umpire 2008 Southern California Community College Bowl, Umpire 2007 Southern California Community College Semi-Final, HL 2007 CIF State Championship Final Div. 1; CIF 2006 Southern California Community College Championship LJ 2005 Pioneer Football League Championship NCAA Div. 1AA LJ 10 Junior college Bowl Games 8 CIF Southern Section Finals & CIF Play-offs (1st, 2nd and 3rd Rounds) 1989-2010

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