There are many opponents to high school football.  There are many opponents to youth tackle football.  In fact, seven states have tried to ban youth tackle football, including my very own, California.  But we defeated that ridiculous idea before it could even be heard in the Assembly Committee, something that no other state has been able to do.  It took a strong grassroots effort!

One of the things that we had to convince lawmakers of, and in fact tell some of them for the first time, is that football has never been as safe as it is today.  The California Youth Football Alliance has taken many steps to help make youth tackle football more safe in our great state via 2019’s Assembly Bill 1 – California Youth Football Act. 

Here are 37 of the ways that football has been made more safe since 2009. 

Steve Coover created this list of football rules changes, it was provided to coaches and administrators by  at a Football Summit in Sacramento on February 6, 2020.  I added the California specific changes since 2009.  This summit was sponsored by the California Interscholastic Federation.  Mr. Coover represents all of California at the NFHS rules meetings each year; he is an official from the San Diego Section. He is the San Diego County Football Officials Association Instructional Chairman, and also serves as the Rules Interpreter for California.

Steve Coover presenting at the CIF Football Summit.


  1. Horse collar tackle added to illegal personal contact foul
  2. Sideline restricted was created to assist with risk minimization


  1. Concussion rule was revised
  • CALIFORNIA – CIF Bylaw 313 – student-athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion must be removed from competition for the remainder of the day, and be evaluated by a licensed health care provider


  1. Mercy Rule was established (running clock when up by 35 points in the fourth quarter)
  2. Thigh guard standard revised
  3. Chop block redefined
  4. Provisions for removal of injured players was standardized
  5. Enforcement spot for roughing the passer was revised


  1.  Football gloves must meet NOSCAE test standards
  2. Blocking below the waist rule was revised
  3. Player required to be removed from the game if the helmet comes off during play
  4. Restrictions added to blocking on free kicks
  • CALIFORNIA – Education Code 49475 requires that an athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury shall be immediately removed from the activity for the remainder of the day, and can’t return until evaluated by a licensed health care provider


  1.  Loss of helmet after the down
  2. Initiating contact with a helmet-less opponent was made to be illegal
  3. Illegal participation for players continuing to play without a helmet


  1.  Targeting definition and foul added
  2. Definition of a defenseless player was added
  3. Provisions made to free kick formations were added
  4. Roughing the passer fouls were revised


  1.  Blindside blocks and peel back blocks were redefined and emphasized
  2. Spearing was redefined and emphasized
  3. Free kick formation was revised to minimize, kickoff players must be within 5 yards of ball
  4. Necessary roughness was updated to include defenseless players
  5. Roughing the passer penalty was clarified


  1.  Completely clear or completely white tooth and mouth protectors are now allowed
  2.  Clipping in the free blocking zone made illegal


  1.  Added a new definition for a blindside block
  2. Specific penalty for an illegal blindside block added
  3. Added a new definition for a pop up kick
  4. Expanded the definition of a defenseless player
  5. Ball is declared dead if a prosthetic limb comes completely off the runner


  1.  Improperly equipped player shall be replace for at least one down
  2. New penalty option adopted for fouls by kicking team
  3. Defenseless player provisions for the passer were clarified


  1.  Scrimmage kick formation requires a minimum of 5 players legally on their side at the snap
  2. Tripping of the runner became illegal
  3. Added grabbing the name plate to the area to horse collar tackle definition
  • CALIFORNIA – must have an AED on campus if you have high school athletics
  • CALIFORNIA – coaches must have Heat Illness Prevention training and certification


Chris Fore has his Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator and serves as an Adjunct Professor in the M.S. Physical Education –  Sports Management program at Azusa Pacific University. He serves as the President of the California Coaches Association, and serves as an Expert Witness in athletically based court cases.  Fore also runs Eight Laces Consulting which specializes in helping coaches nationwide in their job search process.  Fore has been named to the Hudl Top 100 Coaches, and the Top 5 Best High School Football Coaches to follow on Twitter by MaxPreps.  Follow him!

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