Federation Basketball Rules Changes - 2020-21

The following information was copied from the NFHS web site.

Rule 2 Section 12 Article 5... The intent of the rule change is to avoid gamesmanship and ensure the time for replacement remains within the rules. This rule change makes 2-12-5 consistent with 2-12-4 “second horn” requirement.

Rationale: The addition of a warning signal at the end of the replacement period admonishes the coach and team to prepare for resumption of the game.

Rule 5 Section 4 Article 1, (2)...When a coach has been removed, this rule clarifies that if no other coach or school personnel are available, then the game is forfeited unless state association rules determine otherwise.

Rationale: Rewritten to clarify the forfeiture process and adds language and a new article to give directions when there is no coach or other school personnel, on the bench.

Rule 10 Section 6 Penalty... To clarify that officials are not required to issue a warning prior to issuing a technical foul. However, they may issue a warning when the offense is judged not to be major.

Rationale: To clarify the official does not have to give a warning to the coach. The warning is one of the tools used to help improve behavior before a technical foul has to be given.

Points of Emphasis are not in priority order and are considered of equal importance to coaches and officials.


By definition, “a block or charge foul” occurs when a defender impedes his/her opponent to stop him/her from going in that direction. If he/she does not obtain a legal defensive position and contact occurs, it is a blocking foul.
The obtaining and maintaining of a legal guarding position on a player with and without the ball has been a point of emphasis over the years, but yet, remains one of the most difficult plays to coach and officiate.

A ... The basics.

  1. To obtain initial legal guarding position on a player with the ball, the defender must get to the spot first without contact, have both feet touching the floor and initially face the opponent within six feet.
  2. Once the initial legal guarding position has been obtained, the defender may move laterally or at an angle or backwards in order to maintain a legal guarding position. Keep in mind that when a defender obtains an initial position with both feet touching the floor and facing his/her opponent, the defender need not be stationary but may continue to move in order to stay in front of the person with the ball.
  3. Once the defender obtains a legal guarding position, the defender may raise his/her hands in a normal stance or may jump vertically within his/her vertical plane.
  4. A defender may turn or duck to absorb the shock of imminent contact.
  5. A player is never permitted to move into the path of an opponent after the opponent has jumped into the air.
  6. A player who extends an arm, shoulder, hip or leg into the path of an opponent and causes contact is not considered to be in a legal guarding position.

B ... Guarding a player with the ball.

Points to remember when a defender is guarding a player with the ball:

  1. Time and distance are of no consequence. If the defender gets to the spot first and is in a legal guarding position, the onus is on the person with the ball.
  2. A defender is never permitted to move into an opponent and thus cause contact.
  3. If a player with the ball gets his/her shoulders past the front of the torso of the defender and contact occurs, the defender has blocked and a foul must be called. In order for the defender to re-obtain a legal guarding position, all “guarding a person with the ball” criteria must be met.
  4. When an offensive player receives a long pass with his/her back turned and places one foot on the floor and crashes into a legally set defender, it is a player-control foul. It seems many officials are calling this a traveling violation, which is incorrect.

C ... Guarding a player without the ball.

Time and distance are the key factors here. The distance allowed depends on the speed in which the offensive player is moving, with the distance never to exceed two strides, regardless of how fast he or she is moving. Once the defender has met the criteria of both feet touching the court and initially facing the opponent, the defender has obtained a legal guarding position and may move the same as if he/she were guarding a player with the ball.

Use of proper signals and the reporting area

One of the most important tenets of good officiating is good communication. The easiest and quickest way for officials to establish credibility is to effectively communicate with players, coaches, spectators, and the scorer’s table during a high school basketball game. When officials properly and effectively communicate with all stakeholders during a contest, their judgement is less questioned, their confidence is heightened, and their over-all game management is improved.

Good communication centers on the use of proper signals and mechanics. Signals are verbal and non-verbal means of communication by officials and are required by rule. Each time the whistle is sounded in a basketball game, there is an accompanying signal. Virtually all NFHS Basketball-related publications contain the approved list of signals officials should use. Meanwhile, mechanics are the methods or procedures used by officials while officiating the game that help put the official in the best possible position to provide proper court coverage and to provide effective communication to the table officials.

Officials shall be professional in the use of approved signals and mechanics and should not attempt to draw attention to themselves by the use of unapproved, emphatic, or theatrical signs. Adherence to prescribed NFHS signals and mechanics presents an environment where the officials are in charge and the game is well-officiated.

Whether calling a violation or a foul, anytime an official blows his/her whistle, he/she shall also raise his/her hand to stop the clock. If a violation is being called, the official will extend one arm above the head with an open palm/fingers extended, while if a foul is being called, the official will raise one arm high above the head with the fist clenched.

When a violation is observed, an official shall complete the following after blowing his/her whistle and stopping the clock:

  • Move towards the area of the violation.
  • Signal the nature of the violation.
  • Signal the direction for the throw-in and the team to make the throw-in by stating the jersey color.
  • Indicate the throw-in spot.

All officials are responsible for contact rulings and all fouls. It is imperative that the following procedure be used in this order after an official blows his/her whistle and raising his/her arm to stop the clock:

  • (if necessary for player clarification) Delay and extend the other hand, palm down toward the fouling player’s hips (i.e., “bird dog”).
  • While holding the foul signal, move toward the play and fouling player, stop, and verbally inform the player he/she fouled by stating the jersey color and number.
  • Lower the foul signal and indicate the nature of the foul by giving a preliminary signal using the approved NFHS signal.
  • Indicate what will follow as a result of the foul (throw-in, free throws, made basket, etc.).
  • After signaling what will result, wait for players to separate, particularly if they are in close proximity to one another, and then move to the reporting area to announce the foul to the scorer. In general, the reporting area is a rectangular area that runs from the middle of the top of the free throw circle on each end of the floor to an area approximately 10’ towards the scorer’s table.
  • Once in the reporting area, the official will come to a complete stop before communicating with the official scorer.
  • Slowly state the color of the jersey of the player who fouled. Visually indicate the number of the player who fouled using a two-handed signal (right hand shows the ten’s digit and the left hand shows the single’s digit) while verbalizing the number to the scorer.
  • Indicate the type of foul committed.
  • Indicate what activity should follow (throw-in, free throws, etc.)

For a complete description of all 2-person and 3-person mechanics, please refer to the NFHS Basketball Officials Manual.


Across the country, more and more players are being allowed to illegally dribble the basketball. Likely, a combination of increased viewing of other players doing this act and poor enforcement of the rules by officials has led to this decline in proper fundamentals.

The dribble begins by pushing, throwing or batting the ball to the floor before the pivot foot is lifted. (4-15-3) The act of palming/carryingis when the dribbler allows the ball to come to rest in one or both hands and then continues dribbling. (4-15-4b) This causes the dribble to end and is a violation.

Clarification of Intentional and Flagrant Fouls

There is a distinct difference between an Intentional Foul and a Flagrant Foul. A foul should be ruled an Intentional Foul when a player, while playing the ball, causes excessive contact. It should be called away from the ball when it’s a non-basketball play. These are considered either personal or technical fouls.

A Flagrant Foul is violent in nature or a noncontact play demonstrating unacceptable or uncivil behavior. The penalty for a Flagrant Foul is immediate ejection.

There is a concern that there is lack of enforcement for Intentional Fouls. Fouling has become a strategic part at the end of game and officials need to understand the differences between common fouls, Intentional Fouls, and Flagrant Fouls and have the conviction to make the correct call. Was it a basketball play or simply an attempt to stop the clock? As an official, getting the first foul is critical and will help prevent the game from becoming more physical.

Intentional Foul

Rule 4 Section 19 Article 3 ... An Intentional foul is a personal or technical foul that may or may not be premeditated and is not based solely on the severity of the act. Intentional fouls include, but are not limited to:

  • Contact that neutralizes an opponent's obvious advantageous position.
  • Contact away from the ball with an opponent who is clearly not involved with a play.
  • Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball/player specifically designed to stop the clock or keep it from starting.
  • Excessive contact with an opponent while the ball is live or until an airborne shooter returns to the floor.
  • Contact with a thrower-in as in 9-2-10 PENALTY 4.

Flagrant Foul

Rule 4 Section 19 Article 4 ... A flagrant foul may be a personal or technical foul of a violent, savage or uncivil nature, or a technical noncontact foul which displays unacceptable conduct. It may or may not be intentional. If personal, it involves, but is not limited to violent contact such as: striking, kicking and kneeing. If technical, it involves dead-ball contact or noncontact at any time which is extreme or persistent, vulgar or abusive conduct. Fighting is a flagrant act.

Federation Basketball Rules Changes - 2019-20

Rule 3 Section 4 Art. 3e (2)... The team jersey color itself when bordered will not be more than two ¼ inch solid border(s) contrasting with the team jersey color. (Effective 2023-24)

Rationale: The number being the same color as the jersey, though bordered by a contrasting color, is difficult to see. Two options for number design remain.

Rule 3 Section 5 Art. 4b... A headband is any item that goes around the entire head. It must be a circular design without extensions. If worn, only one headband is permitted, it must be worn on the forehead/crown. It must be nonabrasive and unadorned, and it must be no more than 3 inches wide.

Rationale: I am suggesting that we make the Basketball and Volleyball rule codes on headbands, the same. Girls are wearing headbands that are wider than 2 inches in basketball but are allowed to wear up to 3-inch headbands in volleyball. I think it would help girls who are in these two sports to comply with the rule without confusion.

Rule 3 Section 5 Art. 4d... Add to (d) - Hair control devices are not required to meet color restrictions.

Rationale: To address inconsistent interpretations regarding items such as pre-wrap controlling hair.

Rule 3 Section 5 Art. 5... Add Note: NOTE: Provided the shorts are not in conflict with 3-4-5, no drawstring or other part of the shorts intended to maintain them in a normal position causes potential harm to the player or others and wearing of the shorts is not objectionable in exposing the anatomy, there is no restriction on folding or rolling the shorts at the natural waistband seam.

Rationale: Rolling of the shorts is only illegal by interpretation, not by current rule. This is an attempt to modernize the rule and allow what players seem to want and what serves as no harm to the game or its integrity. In particular, this interpretation was made because allegedly manufacturers did not intend on the shorts to be rolled when in fact many manufacturer reps will tell you that the seams are intentionally made to offer options in the way they are worn.

Rule 3 Section 5 Art. 8 NEW MOUTHGUARD...

  1.  A tooth and mouth protector (intraoral), if worn shall:

      a.  include an occlusal (protecting and separating the biting surfaces) portion;

      b.  include a labial (protecting the teeth and supporting structures) portion;

      c.  cover the posterior teeth with adequate thickness;

  2.  It is recommended that the protector be properly fitted, protecting the anterior (leading) dental arch and:

      a.  constructed from a model made from an impression of the individual’s teeth, or

      b.  constructed and fitted to the individual by impressing the teeth into the tooth and mouth protector itself.

  3.  State associations may deem a tooth and mouth protector required equipment.

Change section 6 to 7; change section 7 to 8.

Rationale:  Provides another safety option with specific with coverage for the devise.

Rule 9 Section 9 Art. 9 Exception...

A ball in team control of Team A in the front court that is deflected by a defensive player, which causes the ball to go into the backcourt, may be recovered by either team unless the offense was the last to touch the ball before it went into the backcourt. If the offense was last to touch the ball in its frontcourt, only the defense can legally recover the basketball.

Rationale:  This was the original intent of the proposal from 2017-18 and 2018-19. Despite the committee's best efforts, the wording adopted, which mirrored the intent, has caused issues. This wording is identical to the exception at other levels of play and easier to teach and understand.

Rule 10 Section 5 Art. 5 Note...

The head coach and any number of assistant coaches may enter the court in the situation where a fight may break out - or has broken out - to prevent the situation from escalating.

Rationale:  Based on some fight situations that I have seen and heard about over the last couple years at the high school level, I believe that this change, which was instituted at the NCAA level, is a change that is good for the game of basketball and in regard to player safety. It is difficult in our society for officials to be able to help to separate players involved in a fight since our society has become very litigious. Changing the rule to allow the head coach and assistant coaches to assist in these types of situations will help the officials to regain control of the entire situation more quickly and especially in regard to player safety.

Stop Clock for Jump/Held Ball-Part 3 of the NFHS Basketball Officials Manual-#3...

When a held ball occurs, covering official(s) shall stop the clock using signal #2 (straight arm, open palm extended) while simultaneously sounding their whistle. Then both arms are extended straight out, at chest level, with fist clinched. Thumbs are displayed as a part of the signal. Signal is given with both arms moving in an upward motion. Should be followed with a directional signal (See #6) indicating team possession.

*  Occurs when opponents both have their hands on the ball and neither can gain control

*  When an opponent places their hand on the ball and prevents an airborne shooter from passing or releasing the try.

Rationale:  This change should help in the alleviation of conflicting calls by officials when a held ball occurs, ie jump ball and foul both called on the same play. We currently raise one arm to stop the clock for everything except the jump/held ball.

2019-20 Basketball Rules Interpretations

SITUATION 1:  A1 is dribbling the ball in frontcourt near the division line when B1 taps the ball away. The ball rolls into the backcourt where A2 is standing. A2 picks up the ball while in backcourt and starts a dribble.

Federation Basketball Rules Changes - 2018-19

Rule 1 Section 12 Art. 1c... It shall have a deeply-pebbled, granulated surface, with horizontally shaped panels bonded tightly to the rubber carcass.

Rationale: The additional words give manufacturers a better sense of what a deeply-pebbled cover should look like.

Rule 9 Section 9 Art. 1... A player shall not be the first to touch the ball after it has been in team control in the frontcourt, if he/she or a teammate last touched or was touched by the ball in the frontcourt before it went to the backcourt. EXCEPTION: Any player loated in the backcourt may recover a ball deflected from the frontcourt by the defense.

Rationale: To ensure that a team is not unfairly disadvantaged on a deflected pass.

2018-19 Basketball Rules Interpretations

SITUATION 1: A1 is dribbling the ball in frontcourt near the division line when B1 taps the ball away. The ball rolls into the backcourt where A2 is standing. A2 picks up the ball while in backcourt and starts a dribble.

RULING: Legal play. The ball rolling on the floor when it crosses the division line has backcourt status; therefore, either the offense or the defense can recover the ball. (9-9-1 EXCEPTION)

SITUATION 2: A1 is straddling the division line when the ball is deflected by B1 into the backcourt. A1 is able to reach out and take possession of the ball while still straddling the division line.

RULING: Legal. A1 is in the backcourt and maintains that status when she takes possession of the deflected ball. Because A1 is in the backcourt, the official must start a 10-second count and maintain the count as long as the player is in the backcourt and in possession of the ball. (9-9-1)

SITUATION 3: A1 throws a ball from the sideline, near the division line. A2 catches the ball while straddling the division line, fumbles the ball into the frontcourt and recovers the ball with one foot still in the backcourt.

RULING: Violation by A2. While in player and team control in backcourt, a player shall not cause the ball to go from backcourt to frontcourt and return to backcourt, without the ball touching a player in the frontcourt, such that he or a teammate is the first to touch it in the backcourt. (4-21, 9-9-2)

SITUATION 4: Players scramble for the ball with A1 touching the ball and the boundary line.

RULING: A1 has created a violation by touching the boundary line and the ball at the same time, causing the ball to be out-ofbounds. Team B shall be given the ball at the spot nearest to the violation. (7-1- 1, 7-1-2, 7-2-2, 9-3-1)

SITUATION 5: The ball is thrown from Team A’s own end line on a throw-in towards the division line. Offensive player A1 deflects the ball into the backcourt.

RULING: The ball may be recovered in backcourt by the offensive team without creating a violation. (9-9-1)

SITUATION 6: A1 has tucked the bottom of his/her shorts into the tights being worn.

RULING: Illegal. The referee shall not allow the player to enter the game or direct the player to leave the game until the shorts are removed from inside the tights. After making the correction, the player may re-enter the game at the appropriate time for a substitution. The uniform should be worn as the manufacturer intended it to be. (3-5-5)

SITUATION 7: Substitute A6 reports to enter the game to replace A1. A5, already in the game, is wearing a beige compression sleeve on her/his arm and leg. A6 is wearing a black headband and wristbands.

RULING: A6 is not allowed to enter because the rule requires all teammates to wear the same allowable color sleeves, headbands and wristbands. No penalty is involved. A6 simply cannot participate until the color restrictions are corrected. (3-5-3)

SITUATION 8: A loose ball is on the floor and A1 dives onto the floor and secures the ball while on her/his stomach. A1 then (a) rolls over, sits up and passes the ball; (b) while on her/his stomach passes the ball to a teammate.

RULING: Illegal in (a) to roll over from the stomach; (b) legal action for the ball to be passed from that position. (4-44-5b)

SITUATION 9: During warm-ups, the officials notice that some players have rolled the waistband on their shorts. What actions should be taken by the officials, if any, at this time?

RULING: During the warm-up period, the referee should notify the coach of the infractions and ask that they be corrected immediately. If the corrections are not made and players attempt to enter the game with rolled waistbands, those players should not be allowed to enter the game prior to correcting the issue. If player(s) in the game have rolled waistband(s), they shall be directed to leave the game and may not re-enter until the next opportunity to substitute. No penalty is involved. The game should not be held-up to allow for the correction. (3-3-5, 3-5-5)

SITUATION 10: The ball supplied by the home team does not meet the description of a ball with a deeply-pebbled, granulated surface and does not have the NFHS Authenticating Mark applied.

RULING: The referee shall make the decision on whether the ball meets the specifications to be used for the contest. The referee may select a ball that meets the specifications, even if it is one from the visiting team. (1- 12-1c) • May be excessive contact.

Federation Basketball Rules Changes - 2017-18

Rule 1 Section 13 Art. 2... The coaching box shall be outlined outside the side of the court on which the scorer's and timer's table and team benches are located. The area shall be bounded by a line drawn 28 feet from the end line towards the Division line. At this point a line drawn from the sideline toward the team bench becomes the end of the coaching box going towards the end line.
Note: State Associations may alter the length and placement of the 28 foot (maximum) coaching box.
Effective Immediately. Tape may be used to extend the 14-foot line to 28 feet.

Rationale: The restriction of the coaching box penalizes the level of communication between coach and player. Allowing a coach freedom to move within the new box between the 28’ mark and the end line provides a coach more access to coach his/her players.

Rule 2 Section 9 Art. 1... When a foul occurs, an official shall signal the timer to stop the clock. The official shall verbally inform the offender, then with finger(s) of two hands, indicate to the scorer the number of the offender and the number of free throws.

Rationale: To minimize foul reporting errors, that occur between the officials and the scorekeepers when the information gets lost in the translation. Two handed reporting is easier for the scorekeepers to see and comprehend in addition to being less confusing.

Rule 3 Section 4 Art. 1d... There are no color/design restrictions in the area of the team jersey from the imaginary line at the base of the neckline to the top of the shoulder and in the corresponding area on the back of the jersey. There are restrictions on what identifying names may be placed in this area (see Article 3-4-4).

Rationale: Provide guidance on the forthcoming restrictions for this area of the jersey.

Rule 3 Section 4 Art. 4... Identifying name(s) shall adhere to the following:
a. If used, lettering with school name, school’s nickname, school logo, player’s name and /or abbreviation of the official school name shall be placed horizontally on the jersey.
b. The panel in the shoulder area of the jersey on the back may be used for placing an identifying name as well.

Rationale: Provide guidance to persons purchasing uniforms in determining what wording should go onto the jersey.

Rule 4 Section 4 Art. 8 NEW... Warning for Coach/Team Conduct A warning to a coach/team for misconduct is an administrative procedure by an official, which is recorded in the scorebook by the scorer and reported to the Head Coach:
Art. 1... For conduct, such as that described in rule 10-5-1a,b,d,e,f; 10-5-2; 10-5-4 the official shall warn the head coach unless the offense is judged to be major, in which case a technical foul shall be assessed. Note: A warning is not required prior to calling a technical foul.
Art. 2... For the first violation of rule 10-6-1, the official shall warn the head coach unless the offense is judged to be major, in which case a technical foul shall be assessed. Note: A warning is not required prior to calling a technical foul.

Rationale: Stopping play and making sure that the bench and the coach know that an official warning has been given, sends a clear message to everyone in the gym and impacts the behavior of the coach, and in some cases the behavior of the opposing coach. This change in behavior creates a better atmosphere and many times avoids the need to administer a technical foul.


Rule 3 Section 5 Art. 2C NOTE... This was moved from 3-5-3d to better align with where braces are addressed in the rule book.
Rule 4 Section 4 Art. 7b... Changed the word player to thrower or free thrower.
Rule 9 Section 12 Penalty 1... Changes the rule reference from 10-3-9 to 10-4-9. Penalty Summary-Head Coach... Changed 20 seconds to 15 seconds.


1... Equipment worn on head for medical or religious reason. Specific procedures have been established for allowing a head covering to be worn for medical or religious reasons. A player who is required to wear a head covering for medical or religious reasons must provide a physician statement or appropriate documented evidence to the state association for approval. If approved, the state association shall provide written authorization to the school to be made available to officials.

2... Team control, throw-in. The relevance of team control during a throw-in only applies when a member of the throw- in team fouls. Such fouls shall be ruled team control fouls. Team control during a throw-in is NOT intended to be the same as player control/team control inbounds. Team control inbounds is established when a player from either team who has inbound status gains control of the ball. During the throw-in, 10-seconds, 3-seconds, frontcourt status, backcourt status, closely guarded, etc., are NOT factors as there has yet to be player control/team control obtained inbounds.

With specific regard to the backcourt violation; a team may not be the last to touch a live ball in the front court and then be the first to touch a live ball in the backcourt, provided that team has establish player control/team control on the playing court (either in the backcourt or frontcourt). BY RULE EXCEPTION, during a throw-in a team may leave the front court, establish player control/team control while airborne and land in the backcourt. This is a legal play and ONLY applies to the first player of the offense who touches the ball PRIOR to the end of the throw-in.

3... Intentional Fouls. The committee is concerned about the lack of enforcement for intentional fouls during any part of the game but especially at the end of a game. The intentional foul rule has evolved into misapplication and personal interpretations. An intentional foul is a personal or technical foul that may or may not be premeditated and is not based solely on the severity of the act, it is contact that:
• Neutralizes an opponent’s obvious advantageous position.
• Contact on an opponent who is clearly not in the play.
• May be excessive contact.
• Contact that is not necessarily premeditated or based solely on the severity of the act. This type of foul may be strategic to stop the clock or create a situation that may be tactically done for the team taking action. This foul may be innocent in severity, but without any playing of the ball, it becomes an intentional act such as a player wrapping their arms around an opponent. The act may be excessive in its intensity and force of the action. These actions are all intentional fouls and are to be called as such.

Officials must be aware of the game situations as the probability of fouling late in the game is an accepted coaching strategy and is utilized by many coaches in some form. Officials must have the courage to enforce the intentional foul rule properly.

4... Guarding. The addition of rule 10.7.12, has been successful in its intent to clean up illegal contact on the ballhandler/dribbler and post players. Players are attempting to replace this illegal contact with contact observed as “body bumping”. Illegal contact with the body must be ruled a foul however, officials must accurately identify if the defense or offense causes the contact and penalize the player causing the illegal contact. Once a defensive player obtains legal guarding position by facing an opponent with both feet of the floor inbounds, he/she may move to maintain that position in any direction except toward the offensive player being guarded when contact occurs. The defense is not required to keep both feet on the playing court and may jump vertically or laterally to maintain the legal position. If contact occurs prior to the offensive player getting head and shoulders passed the defender the responsibility is on the offensive player.