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On Nov. 4, 2017 Iowa ran a trick play in their upset of Ohio State in which their long snapper hiked the ball to the punter before running down the field and catching a pass. The long snapper was effectively the center on the play. Why was he allowed to catch the ball?

Animated gif of the play

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When defining the conditions for a legal offensive formation and for receiver eligibility, there is no mention of where the ball is located. The eligible receivers need to be on the ends, not covered, and wearing appropriate numbers (they are here) and appropriate numbered ineligible receivers must be found between them (also true).

It's just that for this play, the ball is snapped by one of the eligible receivers on the end, instead of one of the ineligible receivers in the middle. Handling the snap does not make the player ineligible, or make the formation illegal.

See the NCAA Football Rulebook 7-1-4-a (FR-72) for requirements of the offensive formation and 7-3-3 (FR-76) for receiver eligibility.

  • This is a good answer. The play itself is a travesty in refereeing though which makes it a poor example. The player in a 3 point stance to the right of the center who is offset would normally (depth-wise) be at the same position if he were a tackle and deemed on line of scrimmage. It is obvious he was coached to do this and its deceiving. The referee should have yelled that he was on the line or call the center ineligible. And then what about him blocking not one but two players downfield. I mean the only thing that makes this a good play is the depth of him. – Coach-D Jan 7 at 6:15

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