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The Famous “Dooley 13”

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3-6-9-11. Huh? 12?

Working as a referee requires me to count the offense on every down and confirm the count with a signal to the umpire who is also counting the players.  More than 12 (on the field) and the snap is imminent? Whistle, flag, and illegal substitution is called.

Often, a captain from the offending team gives me that “What? Us?” look and inquires about the call.  Sometimes, for emphasis and maybe to lighten things up a bit I’ll reply, “You had 13 players on the field.”  That usually gets a double take and often a smile.  In reality, though 12 is common, I can never remember having 13 players on the field in the 14 years I’ve officiated high school football.

Forty years ago, my high school team only had two coaches.  We rarely dressed out more than 35 players, and with only two coaches, it was very important for each player to know what was going on in the game and if he should be on the field. Special teams, certain down and distance situations and special plays all required the right personnel.  You had to know if you were supposed to be on the field. 

Nowadays, even small schools with low-number teams have as many as eight or 10 coaches.  Typically, one of these coaches is burdened with the weighty responsibility of not only having 11 men on the field, but the correct 11.  Remember this is at the high school level.

Shift gears to an NCAA BCS Division game in the SEC on national television (University of Tennessee vs. LSU) last evening. Tennessee is leading LSU 14-10, it’s the last play of the game with the clock running out, and neither team has any timeouts.  Is it really that important to change out from three to five players at this crucial point in the game? 

Regardless of how many coaches are involved and which players are wondering where they’re supposed to be, the buck will stop on Derek Dooley’s desk.  The first-year coach of Tennessee will bear the responsibility and will have to make some very positive headlines to erase the memory of last night in Baton Rouge, when 13 of his players were on the field during what was supposed to be the game’s final snap—and after being penalized for it, LSU went on to win the game.  There is no joy on Rocky Top tonight.

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  • the real bob

    The end of this game was one of the greatest disappointments of my life–which only goes to prove what a good life I have.

    Anyone can tell those extra players were photo-shopped in!Tennessee won!

  • tony

    However, you as a referee neglected to look at illegal substitution by LSU. As quoted when more than 12 players are in the huddle for more than 3 to 5 seconds or go to the line of scrimage it is illegal substitution. LSU had 22 seconds left in the game and had 14 players on the field and at the line of scrimage prior to the infraction on Tenn. They where there till about the 15 second mark of the game and only where cleared off the field just before the snap! OH SNAP!!!!!

  • Steve

    Not so fast my snappy friend. LSU was never in a huddle so let’s forget that part of the rule it did not apply. At the 0:15 second mark, there were 3 LSU substitutes entering the game (not yet in the formation). At the 0:12 second mark, there were 3 LSU players leaving the field (well within the acceptable time frame). At no time were there more than 11 LSU players aligned and set in the formation. The snap occurred at the 0:03 second mark. Though the camera angle does not show it, I feel sure the 3 LSU players were able to exit the field in that 0:09 second span.

    The substitution process was perfectly legal.

  • tony

    Again Steve read the rules if they go to the line of scrimmage they can not substitute they are locked in with those players. They where at the line of scrimmage and if they just leave prior to the snap its also illegal participation. Not even touching the fact the backs nor the recievers where set in there stance being illegal motion. So Whatcha GOT DVR works great! Obviously better than the replay official making a call. Yes watch it again the flag was not thrown till after the play, the official in the corner upper left of the endzone (on your tv screen)never threw the flag till after the fact. Your observation skill is I see as acute as the officials who also are the ones suspended for the bad Fla game call last yr.

  • Steve

    From what rule book are you getting these interpretations? Are you making this up as you go?