High School Sports

MAKING THE CALL: Inadvertent whistles

How do high school football officiating crews handle inadvertent whistles that may affect the outcome of a play or a game?

First of all we try at any cost to avoid the subject of inadvertent whistles. They are the biggest single fear of most officials when working games.

The reason: There is no way to undo what has been done and make it fair for both teams.

An inadvertent whistle is just what it sounds like — a blown whistle blown which stops play when it should have been allowed to continue. Usually it has to do with a play where the ball has been fumbled and the covering official sees the man on the ground not realizing the ball has come loose. Once this whistle has sounded all action is stopped.

Depending on the status of the ball at the time of the whistle there are options given to the team last in possession. If the ball was fumbled beyond the line of scrimmage the options are for the team last in possession to take the ball at the spot where the ball was when the whistle was blown or repeat the play in its entirety. If the ball was fumbled behind the line of scrimmage or if during a pass or kick, then the down simply must be replayed.

Sometimes the whistle and options favor the offense, other times it favors the defense. The problem is that it is never neutral to both teams in how we administer the foul up. At times there can be serious consequences affecting the outcome of the game.

We preach to have officials keep the whistle out of there mouths to give them valuable seconds when needed. In football it is rarely important to blow the whistle immediately when a play is over. A slow whistle doesn’t change the outcome of the down, and when a player is tackled he is down by rule and play is supposed to stop even if no whistle is blown.

No matter how much we preach against the inadvertent whistle, we continue to have them occur periodically. But as long as there is a human element, I’m afraid that this negative event will continue far too often to suit me.