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Chris Kamrani and Tom Wharton
Chris Kamrani and Tom Wharton write about all aspects of high school sports for the Tribune. Follow Chris Kamrani on Twitter at @chriskamrani.

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New pass interference rule will surprise — and anger

Midvale • When a yellow flag is pulled from the waistline of a referee and thrown high into the air signaling a pass interference call, the following reaction is traditionally met with equal parts cheers and jeers.

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Starting tonight at Highland High School, the following reaction could be met with dropped jaws and hands in the air.

Oh, and screams. Many more screams.

Starting this season, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), has implemented a quirk to the rule of pass interference in high school football.

No longer is the penalty an automatic first down. In fact, the infraction will become a mandatory 15-yard penalty that will remain for both offensive and defensive pass interference, but the loss of down for offensive pass interference has been removed from the rulebook, according to a release on the NFHS website.

"Offensive and defensive pass interference and the penalty structure related to these fouls has been debated many times in recent years," said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee in the release. "Proposals that either deleted the loss of down or the automatic first down — but not both — failed to gain support among committee members. The proposal to eliminate both components, thus not upsetting the balance between offense and defense, was the key factor in the adoption of the new rule."

In their first official meeting of the 2013-14 calendar season, the Utah High School Activities Association’s (UHSAA) Board of Trustees met and addressed the impending issue of the new pass interference rules.

UHSAA associate director Kevin Dustin said he expects many of the coaches and fans around the state could be up in arms during tonight’s 2013 season opener between Mountain Crest and Highland, should a pass interference call be whistled and doesn’t include an automatic first down while being televised live on KJZZ 14.

"How many people know that?" Dustin said, addressing the issue of supporting UHSAA sanctioned officials. "Well, I guarantee the five guys on the field know that."

Dustin went on to say that only a third of the coaches involved with Utah’s 103 prep football programs have taken the online coaching clinic entailing the new rules changes implemented from last season.

According to Dustin, the location of the ball following a defensive pass interference will come 15 yards from the previous line of scrimmage.

As Utah prep football czar George Felt describes, the only automatic first down in high school football is now rewarded on roughing the kicker, holder, passer or snapper. A team can only lose a down by an illegal forward pass, intentional grounding, illegal touching of a pass or by an ineligible player or illegally handing the ball forward.

The season starts in a few hours.

The question is: How many coaches, players and fans will be caught off guard by the rule change? One can only assume quite a lot.

Buckle up. More yelling is on the way.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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