SFIA/NFHS/NCAA Hold 2021 Rules Meetings
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NCAA held their annual rules meeting early last month (the meeting was held virtually) in a collaborative effort to coordinate rules changes in youth, high school and collegiate sports with the challenges faced sporting goods industry.
In his annual State of the Team Sports Industry Report during the two-day event that reviewed a year of COVID-driven challenges, Tom Cove, president & CEO of SFIA, said that, “Coming out of a year dominated by COVID challenges, the team sports industry is in a position to rebound in 2021.
“Scholastic sports suffered from lost seasons while certain segments of the industry, including outdoor activities like golf, tennis and home fitness, had major gains,” Cove pointed out.” While 2020 was a difficult year, the availability of vaccines, schools opening again and youth sports restarting are factors that will contribute to a resurgence in participation and sells in 2021.
One key takeaway of the meeting, attended by both youth sports organizations, governing bodies and sporting goods manufacturers, is that NFHS and NCAA are likely to try to minimize rule changes affecting uniforms and equipment, unless it is related to a safety issue, because of the financial crunch schools are facing because of revenues lost from COVID. Another is that some COVID-related rules toward safety that are likely to carry over into the 2021-22 school year.
Here is a recap of the discussions. (This is excerpted from a report provided by the National Sporting Goods Association’s Marty Maciaszek, director–communications and Team Dealer Division, and marketing coordinator Tom Van Jacobs.)
The NFHS rule regarding gray home jersey goes into effect with the 2021 fall season. Jerseys must be a 70 percent grade of gray or up to be permissible and white jerseys can’t have any shade of gray. Vegas Gold-colored jerseys are currently permissible to be worn by the home team. And as of 2024 the entire body of the jersey number must be a single, solid color which clearly contrasts with the body of the jersey.
The NCAA’s points of emphasis for 2021 include uniform compliance regarding knee pads, pants, jerseys and T-shirts. Game officials have been instructed to remove players who are not in clear or significant compliance of related rules for one play initially. They also encouraged a review of uniform designs before they are ordered by a school.
The NOCSAE requirements for baseballs and commotio cordis chest protectors are now in place for high school baseball by NFHS.
NCAA barrel compression testing of bats started in 2020 for Division I but was delayed for Divisions II and III until 2022.
The NCAA, NFHS and USA Softball are looking to get aligned on a change on specifications of the softball that would impact the compression. If it does go through, the organizations will be looking at timeline for when there are enough products meeting new specifications for a change to be made.
NCAA bat testing of barrel compression before regular-season games goes into effect for all divisions in 2022.
Regarding high school uniforms, coaches and administrators must ensure legal uniforms are being ordered and purchased. NFHS rules dictate the design (and not vice versa). One example is a large picture of a team logo is not allowed on the jersey front where the school name or nickname goes.
NFHS and NCAA said they were both approached by a company producing a clear plastic shield that could be placed over the net to minimize the potential for spread of disease. The NFHS and NCAA medical advisory committees did not believe this was medically necessary and there were concerns it could impact the game.
The NCAA said it anticipates officials will want to continue to use electronic whistles and is receiving requests by officials to continue wearing masks.
For high school play, the body of the number color will have to clearly contrast with the body of the uniform color when the 2023-24 season starts.
NFHS did not publish new rules for 2021 season because of COVID, but changes to the 2020 rules will be implemented in the 2021 season. For girls’ lacrosse, equipment shall not be modified from its original manufactured state and shall be worn in the manner the manufacturer intended it to be worn. Also, girls’ eyewear on the playing field must be SEI certified. For both boys and girls this year goalkeepers must wear a chest protector for lacrosse that meets the NOCSAE standard. For boys, beginning January 1, 2022, field players must wear shoulder pads that meet the NOCSAE ND200 lacrosse standard for protection.
For NCAA play, upcoming changes to women’s jerseys will begin in January, 2022. Jersey numbers must be a color clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number. For men’s lacrosse, all field players must wear shoulder pad protectors, or an alternative protective device, certified to the NOCSAE commotio cordis protective device standard. The other change is all institutions must have two visible shot clocks with the ability to set/reset the clocks to two different times.
NFHS does not anticipate any rule changes for the coming season when it comes to uniforms and equipment.
The NCAA also will not have any significant rule changes for uniforms or equipment.
There were no equipment or uniform changes by NFHS for the 2020-21 season, but they have proposed new rules for the upcoming season during their annual meeting in early April.
2021 is a rule change year for NCAA wrestling but there are no uniform or equipment rule changes being considered for the 2021-22 or 22-23 seasons.
Track and Field
The 2020 NFHS rule book will be used this season and there were no uniform changes in 2020. The use of gloves in relay races will be permitted for the 2021 season.
There will be no changes to uniforms for the upcoming NFHS 2021 season. There is now the ability for a school to apply their logo to the goal boards if it does not dominate the goal board. The NFHS did move this past year to recommend but not require goggles be worn during play in field hockey. It is expected that five of the 15 sanctioned states will require the use of goggles during play in the upcoming season.
The NCAA said the use of electronic whistles by officials raised some concerns because they were not easy to hear and could be a safety issue if play continues. It was mentioned it could be a growth area if electronic whistles were easier to hear.
Cheer and Dance
NFHS has seen some unusual headwear being worn as props in Dance routines that will probably prompt some rules in the next year or two about headwear that is acceptable for costuming.