The mercy rule in high school football refers to a rule put in place that ends football games early when the score becomes too lopsided.
In high school football, there are often a few teams that find themselves noticeably better than their opponents.
When one of these high-quality teams faces off against one of the bottom teams in the league the score will often get out of hand.
In these games, the winner is usually obvious within a quarter or two of football. The issue is the teams still have a lot of football to play before the game is concluded.
This is when the mercy rule comes into play. When a team is up by a large enough margin the mercy rule will come into effect.
The mercy rule can be implemented in two ways. The first option is ending the game early. In this situation, the game will simply be completed once a team is winning by a certain margin.
The other and more frequently used mercy rule is to keep a running clock.
Instead of stopping the clock between each play, the game clock will continue running at all times.
This makes the game pass much faster than usual and ensures that the score won’t get even further out of hand.
Arguments for the mercy rule
The main reason that the mercy rule is used in high school football is player safety.
When the lead in the game is extremely lopsided the outcome is more or less determined already.
And with football being the dangerous game it is, players will be risking injury by playing out this game.
Since the result is already concluded it doesn’t necessarily make sense for players to play out this game.
Instead, the end of the game will be expedited in order to prevent injuries to any of their players.
It only takes one major injury in a blowout win to realize how the mercy rule can be beneficial to a team.
Arguments against the mercy rule
Playing time for backups
One of the main arguments against the mercy rule in football is how it affects the playing time for backup players.
Whether you are a four-year backup or a younger player looking to get noticed getting playing time in the blowout games can be essential.
Whenever teams are playing each other close the backups are likely going to stay on the bench. This means these blowout games are often the only chance a lot of players get to get on the field.
When using a running clock the amount of time these players are going to play is drastically reduced.
For parents of players that are primarily backups, this is the largest flaw with the mercy rule in high school football.
Valuable experience for the players
Another reason that many folks are against the use of a mercy rule in high school football is due to the experience.
Whether you like it or not losing is a part of life. Taking one on the chin and getting blown out in a football game can be a valuable lesson for players.
Some people around the game of football believe that the mercy rule doesn’t allow players to properly experience a tough loss.
Football fans in this camp believe that finishing off a blowout loss is a better alternative than ending the game early.
All in all, there is no way to say which group is right. Some states have mercy rules imposed at all levels of high school football while other states have no mercy rules at all.