Typically as you move up to more competitive levels of a sport, elements are adjusted to account for the increase of skill/speed/power of better players.

  • NBA 3-point line is farther from hoop than NCAA 3-point line
  • MLB uses wooden bats while NCAA uses metal bats
  • NFL requires 2 feet for completion, NCAA requires 1 foot for completion

Why are NFL hash marks closer together than NCAA hash marks?

  1. If the difference relates to field goals, I don't understand why the NFL would narrow the marks and make it easier for kickers.
  2. If the difference relates to location of ball spots, is there a reason the NFL chooses to keep lateral ball spots closer to the center of the field?
  • I know that it has to do mostly with offense vs defense. It would be hard to defend almost a whole side of the field if one team was down close to the sideline. Plus is makes it easier on an offense that they can call a play to one side or the other without caring too much about which hash they are on. When it comes to kicking, I don't think they want to make it harder. The NFL, especially today is about scoring. I couldn't find any good references about why they are closer than the NCAA. Should be interesting to see if someone can give a complete answer with good references.
    – diggers3
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 16:50

4 Answers 4


In 1972 the NFL moved the hash marks closer together, "looking for a way to produce more action and more touchdowns, now that defenses have become so effective".

The article goes on to add,

Putting the ball in play farther from each sideline supposedly gives the offense more room to exercise its options. But it also becomes more seductive to try a field goal, since the kicker has less of an angle for his attempt.

  • 1
    This article cites another SI article from two weeks earlier, but finding and linking specific articles in the SI Vault is colossally difficult and annoying.
    – pjmorse
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 13:37

It's less about the kicker, and more about the defense v offense. Having the ball placed closer to the centre of the field means that the field is almost equally wide in both directions, making it more difficult to defend.

Further to this, the NFL moved the hashmarks closer together when they moved the posts to the back of the endzone, to help offset the increase in difficulty (extra 10 yards to every kick).


The NFL changed the speed of the game by moving hash marks in. It enabled the "sweep" to be run to either side of the field-- BALANCE was now a word used to describe offenses and not just 50/50 run pass-- as evidence was the vast number of 1000+ rushers (It was referred to as "the year of the runner") -- it also enables the crossing route or "east west game" which college does not have-- college is a slow power game that is a North South game, and has no east/west capability. The close hash marks allowed the "Mouse" Davis spread (run and shoot) to be installed-- it allowed Bill Walsh's 1-2-3 offense to be installed. It is the single biggest aspect to the leagues success via rule change, as it was both innovative and impactful.


A big part of it is what was mentioned before - more touchdowns. IMHO it is also intended to create a more wide-open kind of play for fan consumption. To my way of thinking it's like a Butterball turkey. Most people want breast meat so they breed them to have lots of breast meat with the unintended consequence that the breast meat has hardly any taste. I don't buy the compensate for moving the goal post argument. NCAA kickers on average should be less able than NFL kickers but they manage to make field goals with the angle. It's just an additional way to cause more scoring and thus more excitement.

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