Understanding the NFHS Basketball Rules

My big start came in high school.  It was in high school baseball where I had all kinds of freedom because there weren’t really rules for announcers so I set my own.  Be as professional as possible.  That seemed like a good rule.  But in the 23-plus years I’ve been announcing, I have come across

My big start came in high school.  It was in high school baseball where I had all kinds of freedom because there weren’t really rules for announcers so I set my own.  Be as professional as possible.  That seemed like a good rule.  But in the 23-plus years I’ve been announcing, I have come across a number of announcers who don’t follow that rule, and some who even shun the rule.  People will call or email me with complaints about announcers.  The biggest complaint though, has to do with basketball rules.

The National Federation of High Schools instituted a new set of rules for basketball P. A. announcers for the 2013-2014 season which led to a lot, and I mean A LOT, of dissension among announcers.  The announcers who put a lot of hard work into their craft, to get better and to make it professional, have now had to bow down to rules that take care of the amateurish nature of some announcers while also forcing the good announcers to drop down based on the lowest common denominator.

For years, I fought for rules in regards to P. A. announcers on the high school level.  There was a minority of announcers who talked way too much, or who treated the P. A. mic like a broadcast mic.  It was a small minority, but still enough to ruffle feathers and frankly it was extremely annoying to listen to.  There were also some who interjected comments and in some cases affected the outcome of a game.

One of my most vivid memories came back in 2001 when I was covering a high school football game in Auburn, New York for a local newspaper.  After the game, I interviewed the player who had intercepted a pass that led to the winning touchdown.

“I heard them say on the mic he was open so I went over there.”

Read that again.  This announcer directly affected the game by doing play-by-play instead of recapping the play, after the play was over.  He talked over the play and literally cost his team the game.

So when I heard the NFHS was instituting a new set of rules from a basketball coach in Virginia, I was curious and happy.  Finally, those announcers who annoy coaches, players, officials and fans are going to have to stop with the play-by-play.  I was happy until I read the rules prior to the 2013-14 season.

In 2014-2015, there is even a point of emphasis that is put on announcers (see here) and exactly what they are to announce, you can see it to the left.

BasketballPOELet’s break it down, first May Be Announced:

Player who scored, charged with a foul, attempting a free throw, the team who called and length of the timeout, substitutions and team rosters.  Seems fair, all of those are things the announcer should announce and the NFHS is right.  However, we then get down to the next level.

Shall not be Announced:

Number of points player scored, yes but only during play.  Reading off the top scorer’s at halftime is permissible by the NCAA and is informative to the crowd.  These stats are given to the announcer by the official scorer, so the points should be correct.  This rule should say, “Number of points player scored during play, announcing points scored at halftime and following the game is only permitted if points are obtained from the game’s official scorer,” and would put the onus on the official scorer to provide if he/she elects to do so.

Number of fouls on player, the announcer should be able to announce this, they can in NCAA.  A professional and organized announcer will have a tracking system to keep track of fouls.  This is easy to do, it’s not like the announcer is tracking rebounds, assists, etc.  The number of fouls doesn’t arbitrarily change or happen on the fly.  The game is stopped to assess a foul.  This would be like not being allowed to announce the number of minutes a player’s penalty is in ice hockey.  This is information that is useful to the fans, and a broadcast would be using which means it would be better if the fans stayed home so they can get all the necessary information.

Number of team fouls, this is information the officials often times hear and it assists them.  The information is required to be announced in NCAA.  We have seen in several states at both the high school and college level, the official hears “7th team foul”, then looks to the scoreboard to see “7” and then verifies with the official scorer.  Again, team fouls are assessed by stopping the game and increment by one.  This too is information that is useful for the fans, and a broadcast would use.

Number of team time outs or number remaining, the announcer is to announce what the fans should know.  At an NCAA national basketball tournament in 2013, the announcement of the number and length of timeouts remaining, helped to prevent a major mistake from happening.  Fans want to know how many timeouts are left, and how many of what kind are left.  Very useful to fans, especially late in the game and again, a broadcast would use.

Time remaining in the quarter/game, we do agree on this, except for announcing the final minute.  Here is the explanation.  Some announcers would announce, “With 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter …” during a dead-ball situation.  Don’t need to do this, it is extraneous information.  However, announcing the final minute in the quarter allows for the officials and players to audibly hear the time, at a pre-determined interval in each period of play without having to look at the scoreboard.  A player taking his/her eyes off the play to look at the clock, could have the ball stolen or tipped and lead to a turn over.  In NCAA, the final minute of the second half, and overtimes are announced because the clock will then stop after each basket if it occurs after the 1:00 mark.  In high school, there aren’t timing issues, but we’ve found that it does aid the officials on the court who must signal to each other.

Type of foul or violation, this is murky at best.  Does this mean the announcer isn’t to announce it was a technical foul, which is a part of the game, or are they talking about announcing “hands foul”, “reaching in”, “over-the-back”, etc.  If the former, we disagree as a technical foul is different from a personal foul; if the latter we completely agree with and support the rule.

Now to the type of violation, does this mean the announcer isn’t to announce “back court violations”, “3-second violations”, etc.?  This is the kind of information the fans may miss and may not understand what was called.  To remove this is a disservice to the fans.  Again, a broadcast would tell you and is permitted in NCAA.

Emphatic 2 or 3 point goal, disagree.  Why?  If the play is close, sometimes you have to call with more emphasis that the ball was two or three points.  We actually know the intent of this rule and are intentionally ignoring it to post this other method because of how muddy this rule is.  And if we’re doing that, you can bet there are state associations who have their own definitions that are doing the same thing.

Announcer1You can also see we’ve added the “Announcer Responsibilities” which throws even more mud into the already murky river.  The second bullet point is the key. “Announcements or comments shall be made during those times when there is a stoppage of the clock and the ball is not live, such as time outs, between quarters, pre-game, half time and post game.” 

This makes it sound like the announcer is not to announce any baskets that are scored until there is a stoppage.  How is an announcer supposed to announce a flury of baskets without also mentioning the time.  “Ladies and gentlemen, the first basket was by …, the second basket was by …, the third basket was by …” all seems kind of amateurish honestly.  Makes it sound like the announcer isn’t prepared.

The other bullet of note is “Appropriate training of announcers by personnel and proper pre-game instruction by the Referee are necessary.”  YES, PLEASE REQUIRE APPROPRIATE TRAINING.  We love that and are happy to help with training.  However, involving the referee can make things a problem.  Referees are usually former players who played basketball.  They’ve studied the rule book to learn positioning and interpretation.  They get up early on the weekend and officiate several games in a day to get experience.  They travel long distances to appear at a school tonight, to do the same thing at a different school tomorrow.  Very, very, very few are announcers or broadcasters who completely understand the announcing and operations side of this.  It’s not fair to the officials to make them have to understand announcers and how to handle those situations.  As someone who has, and still does officiate sports, it’s not something a lot of officials understand.

In two sports, I have had announcers while officiating.  I was umpiring a baseball game when the announcer decided to do play-by-play.  He stepped on the play.  The home plate umpire warned him to stop and that he would be upsetting me.  Finally, he interrupted a pitch, at which time I called for timeout and approached the announcer (who was sitting behind home plate) to explain to him once the batter was in the box and the pitcher set, he had to be quiet.  I didn’t tell him yet what I did, though an inning later my partner did.

While refereeing an ice hockey game, a sport that I announce a lot, there was a dad in the penalty box who knew nothing of what I did, but the rest knew.  He started to announce goals and penalties well after they occurred, and left out information.  He was disheveled.  During the first intermission, I gave him a little advice, again not telling him what I did.  The rest in the box did however.  He got better and apologized later for his “amateurism”.  He learned, he received training by one of the handful in that officials association, and the only one who actually does that, who had the knowledge to tell him what to say.

One major question on these rules though, is why, with the advent of internet broadcasting companies, making it less convenient for fans in attendance to be informed and giving them more of a reason to stay home and watch the game there?  Every local fan that stays home means less money for the schools and the programs revenue sports like basketball help to pay for.

If I can stay home, order a pizza, watch the game on my TV through an internet feed; then why would I want to go to the high school, give them $5 to get in, another $5-$10 on concessions, when I can do all that without spending money on gas?  If 10 people do that over the course of a 22 game season, that’s $3,300 the school is losing.  Does the internet broadcasting company charge enough to cover those costs?  Probably not.

In our experience with internet broadcasting, one person will buy the license to use that license at the home of a different host for each game.  I once broadcast a baseball game where I got an e-mail from a fan who said, “there’s 22 of us sitting around listening on the computer.”  I received $3 from that one group of 22 who decided not to come to the game.  Though it was a Little League tournament that doesn’t charge admission, they probably would have spent more than $3 just on concessions which would’ve helped the host Little League.

The offer has always been on the table to assist NFHS with rules that properly address the problems some announcers had, while allowing the announcers who offer a professional product to continue doing so.  Prohibiting the announcer from announcing basic information is not the answer.  Yes, some information can be found on scoreboards, but not all scoreboard operators use the scoreboard correctly.

Jarrod Wronski

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  • Michael Heller
    September 11, 2014, 1:44 pm

    I am very confused by this. In the 2013-14 rules interpretation, it does state the announcer can say who the foul is on, team foul, etc. However it also states the announcer should not announce the time. (which I agree). I do not understand not announcing fouls. Is it because the players feelings would get hurt? There is no reason I can come up with other than that one. I am sure my Athletic Director would back me up on calling appropriate in-game announcements.

    • Jarrod@Michael Heller
      September 11, 2014, 2:12 pm

      Michael, you’re not the only one who is confused and this is the reason I have not attempted to approach high schools about announcing for them. Though I do have clarification from the VHSL (Virginia) that I’d still be able to announce like I normally do, the confusion can run rampant with just one official of the three not understanding the rule properly and I get shut down. I’d rather spend the time with my kids than sit there waiting for a timeout to announce all the baskets and fouls. That takes away from the atmosphere that we could set for the students who come to the game (and spend their money at the school).

      You still can announce fouls, just not the type (hold, over the back, etc.) but I’m not sure if you can announce “personal” or “technical”. I don’t understand announcing the number of fouls on the player either for the simple fact that it provides an extra redundancy when verifying the the number of fouls on a player. I believe you can still say, “Genoa foul on number 22 Harry Wilson.” But that’s it. Seems kind of amateurish to me as the announcer comes off as unprepared.

      If the announcer says, “her third personal, fourth team foul,” both scorers will verify what they have and if something isn’t correct, it can be corrected now. In a perfect world, the official (home) scorer will be vocal with their calls to help the visiting book and provide that system of checks and balances but that’s in a perfect world and not all scorers know they should be doing so.

  • Alma Garza
    January 3, 2015, 10:27 am

    I agree. Training makes a great difference in everything. Thanks for announcing some great games while my daughter played basketball. I always asked for you when we were planning our big game!
    P.S. I cannot see other comments due to the black background.


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