William Correro column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hats down mark a receiver out of bounds

Alabama at LSU was the epitome of a good ole SEC grind it out slugfest.

If you don’t believe me, just go look up SEC Football in Webster’s and you’ll find this game. All the usual clichés applied including hard hitting, taking on the entire line and hearing the leather pop. I saw some of the hardest hits by tacklers, runners and blockers than I ever remember seeing in this my thirtieth year of officiating football.

And ending up in overtime just made it that much better. I know for a fact that CBS was very happy with the viewer numbers they had.

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A few weeks ago I was asked why do officials throw their hats down during a play? And it wasn’t during a conversation with Coach Spurrier either.

The hat is used as an indicator to let the other officials know a receiver has gone out of bounds during a play. This is anytime an eligible receiver or member of the kicking team goes out of bounds. Sometimes there is no big deal and the official just dusts off his gamer and puts it back on.

On a punt, if a member of the team kicking the ball goes out of bounds on his own, the nearest official gets his hat down on the sideline where he went out of bounds.

And on a punt, if he comes back in a penalty flag goes down at that spot. As long as he stays out of bounds, there is no foul committed. If he’s blocked out by an opposing player then there is no problem as long as he gets back in bounds quickly but there still should be a hat down on the sideline.

It works the same with pass receivers. If the receiver goes out of bounds, comes back in and then is the first to touch a legal forward pass, that is a problem. This one has no yardage accessed in the penalty.

It is loss of down back at the previous spot or where the ball was last snapped. The exception also applies here if he is blocked out of bounds by an opponent and immediately returns; there is no foul.

Years ago, officials would use their hat to mark the spot of a fumble or where the ball is to be spotted when a runner goes out of bounds and you have to go get the ball or separate players. I was taught those methods back when I first started working high school many years ago in the Stone Ages.

The problem with that method is hats can move if there’s a good breeze blowing or maybe someone thinks they are helping out by picking it up and handing it back.

I had that happen once that I can remember back from the good ole days.

Then we got the little white beanbags to mark spots with and that was a good thing. Besides, we really hated to be throwing our good peaked gamer down in the mud. But now it’s no big deal to put a hat on the ground because it is so rare for any of our game fields, including the artificial turf ones, to get muddy.

But if it would, Adidas will give us another anytime we need it. They don’t want their logo to look less than perfect if it makes the shot on TV you understand.