Ask the Ref: Playing a shortened game is within the rules

Q: Athens Academy and Hebron Christian chose to play their entire game with a running clock last week. Is that allowed? What rules can coaches agree on during a game? For example, could they play eight-minute quarters if they chose? Can you remember another varsity regular-season game where a team played with a running clock? - Reggie Roberts, Bogart

A: "The region crossover schedule that a couple of regions employed this year resulted in some very unusual situations this last week of the regular season. One of those situations resulted in Athens Academy and Hebron Christian playing each other on back-to-back weeks. This is rare in itself, but to have the teams choose to alter the clock and alter the playing time of the starters, etc., was really weird. 

"Rule 3.1.3 says: 'By mutual agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee, any remaining period may be shortened at any time ... .' So to allow the game to be played with less than 12-minute quarters falls within the framework of the rules. When you factor in the safety issue, neither team wanting any player to get injured in a meaningless game, it seems reasonable that a referee would go along with the request of the coaches. Coaches can agree to shorten halftime to a minimum of 10 minutes, but this must be done in writing before the game starts. In addition, the mandatory three-minute warmup period immediately prior to the second half cannot be shortened or canceled. 

"I have never had a varsity game played with less than 12-minute quarters. Coaches rarely ever want to shorten games, choosing to use the game time to play as many players as they can, in most cases. The mercy rule requires a running clock in the third and fourth quarter, but we always start with 12-minute quarters. 

"In a recent game where the home team was losing 42-0 at halftime, the coach whose team was losing was asked if he wanted a running clock in the third quarter. (It is the coach's option in the third quarter, no option in the fourth). His reply was, 'Absolutely, unless you want to coach them, and then you can play as long as you want to.' Sort of summed up the whole evening." - Bill Palmer, Northeast Georgia Officials Association 

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