# Football field: Defensive goal line "plane" is actually the back of the painted line?

In the NFL and presumably in most football leagues, the goal lines, yard lines, and hash marks are all four inches wide. The hash marks/yard lines are painted at 36-inch intervals; that is, they are 32 inches apart so that they mark exactly one yard each. Easy enough.

However, doesn't this make the field between goal lines exactly 99 yards and 32 inches from goal line to goal line? It is less than one hundred yards, right?

Since that cannot be, I must conclude that the rear of the defensive goal line is the actual defensive goal line. Am I right?

Come to think of it, this would be consistent with how balls are spotted. On a touchback, for example, the ball is spotted with the nose just kissing the back edge of the 20-yard line. Thus a ball spotted at the one-yard line would just kiss the painted hash mark, and so a ball spotted at the one-inch line would be three inches behind the front of the goal line, which we normally think of as "in the end zone," but it must not be so.

I suppose it would only matter in the question of a loss of yards from scrimmage or a terrible kick return within four inches of the goal line. If a ball carrier is down by contact with the nose of the ball spotted three inches behind the front plane of the defensive team's goal line, this must not be a safety/touchback, right? That is, the ball can be spotted for a play from scrimmage with its nose at three inches behind the front of the painted goal line (one inch from the back of the painted goal line), from which the offense would have to advance 99 yards and 35 inches for a touchdown. Is this right?

• While there's theoretical question here, in practical terms I don't think it really matters whether the field is 100 yards, 99 yards and 35 inches or 99 yards and 32 inches as the ball isn't spotted to inch level accuracy after every play anyway. Jan 2, 2016 at 8:18
• Yet, on a possible safety very close to the goal line, I could see instant replay as possibly discerning touching the middle vs. the front of the painted goal line. Nov 7, 2017 at 16:29

A touchdown is actually when a ball is on, above, or behind the plane of the goal line. So to answer at least a part of the question, as soon as the ball goes into the white line at all, it's a touchdown.

Edit:

A safety is basically the inverse of this. The ball is considered in the end-zone until the entire ball is in the field of play (beyond the plane of the white line of the end zone.) So if the spot of the ball leaves any part of the ball on the white line at all, it's a safety. That is my interpretation at least.

I've been using this resource: http://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2015-nfl-rulebook#section-5-safety

• Could you provide a reference to support this assertion? Jan 3, 2016 at 15:28
• I don't think you fully read the question. I am asking about the defensive goal line, which is only relevant in a question of a safety or touchback. Jan 3, 2016 at 17:13
• Your revision doesn't really fully explain it, I fear. If you are right, that would mean a football field (excluding end zones) is 99.89 yards long, not 100. Jan 29, 2016 at 16:55
• Them's the rules. I guess people should say 99.89 instead of 100 then. Jan 29, 2016 at 19:35
• No it is 100 if you look at offense and defense. The tip of the ball has to touch goal line for TD, ball has to lose touch of goal line tip for a safety. First is 100 yards - your answer is correct. Also the ball is spotted where ever the referees want. Complete just being around football and refereeing... I was told in one of my first high school games (I was 24ish) to never spot the ball within a few inches of the goalline either way no matter what I thought. This was simply so coaches didn't fly on field and demand a TD while questioning too good of vision. Dec 21, 2019 at 0:24

In the NFL and presumably in most football leagues, the goal lines, yard lines, and hash marks are all four inches wide.

Inbound lines are that way, but the goal lines are eight inches wide.

The hash marks/yard lines are painted at 36-inch intervals; that is, they are 32 inches apart so that they mark exactly one yard each. Easy enough.

However, doesn't this make the field between goal lines exactly 99 yards and 32 inches from goal line to goal line? It is less than one hundred yards, right?

No. While the individual yard markers are centered on the measured distance, the goal lines are drawn outside the measured distance. This means that there is a greater distance between the 1 yard marker and the goal line than there is between the 1 and 2 yard markers. To within the precision of the measurement and the marking, it should be 100 yards between the inside edges of the goal lines.

The NFL plan drawing from the rulebook shows the goal lines and end lines (thick white lines) are outside the dimensions of the playing field (thin black lines).

While the yard lines on the field are centered.

• Ah, that would be highly relevant if true. Do you have a source? Dec 20, 2019 at 23:41
• "the goal lines are drawn outside the measured distance." If that were true, when the offense has the ball at exactly the opponent's one yard line (that is, the ball is kissing the one-yard line and otherwise just outside of it), they'd actually be a yard and two inches away from the end zone. Is that what you are saying? (I realize we're looking at minutia here.) Dec 23, 2019 at 15:57
• If that's where the ball is placed, then yes. Dec 23, 2019 at 16:46
• I'm not sure you are considering the repercussions of that answer, so let's take another example. On a punt touchback, the ball is placed just kissing the 20-yard line. Thus, by your rationale, they are 80 yards and two inches from the end zone. Is that right? Dec 23, 2019 at 16:58
• If that's what the crew does (and it certainly seems they do), then yes the ball is not exactly 80 yards from the end zone. Dec 23, 2019 at 17:35

One of the very first rules of the game is this: "The game shall be played upon a field 360 feet long" And both ends of the football matter as far as spotting. That is why it must just barely cross the end zone to be a touchdown, and why it must completely cross from the end zone out so as not to be a safety. I think those are all agreed upon. The problem is with the 50=yard line. It is 50 yards from the far side of it to each end zone, making the field of play 4" shorter than 100 yards.* And that is the irony since Rule 1 says it must be 100 yards (360').

• In a perfect world, the centerline would be 50 yards from each end zone, say a line drawn with a pencil. But it is not: It is 4 inches wide, as are all the others. Part of the problem is in crossing from one side of the field to the other, say from one "40" to the other "40". A 20 yard change should net the same side of the yard marker. I know these would not both be called as on the 40 yard line, but am using them to make my point about which side of the line the yardage should be calculated or equal to. Another way to look at it would be if I have the front of the ball on the goal zone side of my own 1 yard line. That means there are 99 yards to the other end zone, meaning there are only 32" back to my own end zone, meaning the field is 4" short.
• Your first sentence is the only one to address the question, and it doesn't do so with any basis in the rules.
– Nij
Dec 3, 2017 at 5:56