Substitutions Revisited

By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

There  have been several articles written about the NCAA rules on substitution.  However, the recently completed 2013 NISOA Assessment Survey indicates that there is still confusion about the proper application of the NCAA rules on substitutions.  Rule 3, Players and Substitutes, provides the “when and how” for substitutions.  The purpose of this article is to review the rule and the proper methods for substitution.  However, it is imperative that every referee who is assigned an intercollegiate game be thoroughly familiar with the rule. In addition, the referee must be cognizant of any league modifications.  For example, in Junior College, substitutions are unlimited and the clock is not stopped in the last 5 minutes of the game for substitutions.  Also, in several regions of Junior College a player who is cautioned must leave the field.

Rule 3.3, Number of Substitutions, indicates that either team may substitute up to 11 players at a time under the conditions set forth in Rule 3.4.  When Allowed, Rule 3.4, provides the various conditions when substitutes may enter the game.  3.4.6 provides specific guidance for the referee on situations that deal with a cautioned player and how a substitution can occur.  Rule 3 continues with very specific instructions on dealing with substitution when a goalkeeper is ejected; players instructed to leave the field due to equipment problems; and injured players.  Each of these instances have specific procedures that the referee must be keenly aware of and deal with properly.

Rule 3.5 provides information on Re-entry Conditions, Restrictions, Exceptions.  Again the referee must be knowledgeable of these requirements and apply them properly so there is no protest.  An example on how the restrictions can become a problem was in a highly contested Division I game in a very strong conference.  In the second overtime the coach for the home team substituted for one of his key players.  A few minutes later the player returned to the score table for reentry.  The alternate official and assistant referee advised the coach that the player could not reenter.  The coach argued and attempted to make the substitution.  The assistant referee quickly and professionally alerted the referee of the situation and the substitution was not permitted.  If the substitution had occurred the game could have been protested.  This is an excellent example of the officiating team knowing the rule, applying it properly and working as a team to prevent a potential problem.   The officiating team would have had to take a different action if the substitution was the goalkeeper, refer to Rule 3.5.2.

Injured players, bleeding or blood on the uniform and signs of concussions are unique situations that again must be dealt with properly.  Rule 3.5.3 provides the procedures for these instances.  Again the referee team must know how to deal with bleeding or signs of concussions so protests are not filed.

The NCAA Rule Book provides instructions on how players report into the game.  This is covered in Rule 3.6.  Substitutes are not to wait at the halfway line until the player leaves the field.  The substitute enters the game when beckoned by the referee.  This is different than the Laws of the Game and should not be confused.  Also, in this portion of the rule, guidance is given when a substitute becomes a player of record.  This is important to know if a misconduct occurs while the substitution is taking place.

Lastly, Rule 3.7, Changing Goalkeepers, provides information on how a field player may change with the goalkeeper.  Again, the referee must ensure that the rule is followed correctly.

In summary, every member of NISOA must be thoroughly knowledgeable of the entire NCAA Rule Book.  A misapplication of the substitute rule may result in a protest and a potential adverse impact on future assignments for the referee that misapplied the rule.