college football uprights - why so short?

This has gnawed at me for a while, but when Boise St.'s kicker missed two chip shot field goals that caused them to lose to Nevada and cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl, I’d really like to know.

One of the kicks looked close to me. I know I have a TV angle, so it may not have been as close as it looked, but if the posts were the length of NFL posts, there wouldn’t be any question. It would have curved inside the post, hit the post, or missed wide. I’ve tried to stand under a goal post and judge kicks, like an official would, and if a kick goes over the post, it’s not easy. Eliminate any possibility of mistakes… just make the posts longer.

So, why does the NCAA continue to use the stubby-length goal posts?


I’m genuinely confused here - if you’re standing directly under a goal post like the officials are, how could it not be easy?

I’ve never heard of a college football game where the officials made a bad decision about whether a field goal attempt was good or not. That might well be because I don’t watch a lot of college football games (although I do watch ESPN Sportscenter a lot, and one would assume that they would comment on such a bad call). Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, though, so if you can point out a bad field goal call by a college official, I’d appreciate it.

For one thing, extra long goal posts would tend to sway in the wind, making whether or not a field goal was good less a matter of skill and more a matter of luck.

They may sway a little, but the NFL’s been using the taller goal posts for decades, and it hasn’t seemed to be a big issue.

Because you’re trying to judge the ball in two dimensions at once.

Say you’re standing under the left upright. The kick is moving from in front of you to behind you, and simultaneously form right to left. You have to judge whether it moved from in front of you to behind you first, or from your right to your left first. Which, if it’s close, isn’t easy.

No, and you probably never will, because this is one call for which TV cameras don’t give a definitive answer. The camera isn’t underneath the uprights, and so affords an even poorer perspective.

The camera view in the Boise State game was sufficient to cast doubt as to the correctness of the call, but not sufficient to give a definitive answer. That doesn’t mean the call was right; the only way to know that for sure would be . . . taller uprights.

I don’t know. I have no answer. But I will speculate . . . cheapness and inertia. In the old days it didn’t matter so much, because most kickers weren’t as good and didn’t kick quite so high.

But which way the ball is moving when the ball passes the goal post isn’t an issue. The ref standing directly under it, not off to the side or behind it. I agree that the TV camera view can’t give you a definitive answer, but that’s precisely because the TV camera isn’t located where the ref is.

Look at it this way - when you’re standing right under the upright, it doesn’t make any difference if the upright is two inches tall or goes right up into the stratosphere - it’s all going to look the same, and a tall upright doesn’t help the ref at all. All a tall upright does is make it more obvious to the spectators whether the ball passed inside or outside of the uprights.

The NFL increased the length of the uprights after a blown call in a 1965 playoff game gave Green Bay the victory over Baltimore. I guess there hasn’t been a similar episode in college and inertia has taken place.

Thanks for that information, Jim’s Son. After reading your post I googled “NFL Goal Post Height” and foundthis Wikipedia entry that mentioned the 1966 NFL rule change specifying that goal posts extend a minimum of 20 feet above the crossbars, implemented after the previous year’s Western Conference playoff game.

The Wikipedia entry did refer to that field goal as “a controversial field goal … that many spectators thought … missed”" rather than “a blown call”, but that wording difference may well be a function of the team loyalties of the respective writers. :wink:

In a somewhat-related question, does anyone know where the refs stood during field goal attempts back in 1965?

That’s true if you’re standing exactly under the upright, sighting up it like it’s a telescope. But as soon as you move the least little bit off to the side, on a close kick below the top of the upright, the post itself serves as a backdrop–the ball either passes in front of or behind the post, on your side of the upright or the opposite side.

There’s another problem with the ball over the top of the upright–even if you sight it perfectly, you have to have a rule to determine whether or not it’s good, rather than letting it bounce off the post and let nature take it’s course.

The NFL says the whole ball has to pass inside the outside of the uprights. But it has 30-foot uprights, so this doesn’t come into play as often.

The NCAA says the whole ball has to pass inside the inside of the uprights, and it comes into play more often as most schools have 20-foot uprights. That’s a pretty restrictive rule, and actually penalizes a high kick, because a lower kick can catch quite a bit of the post and still bounce through.

Never Mind. I did a bit of googling, and apparently the Field Judge and Back Judge (the two referees who stand directly under the goal post uprights during field goal attempts) were added to the refereeing staff in 1929 and 1947, respectively. Only the Side Judge (added in 1978) was added by the NFL post-1965, and he doesn’t determine the accuracy of field goal attempts.

Yes, and if you’re looking at the cheerleaders or the band when the football passes the goalposts you can’t tell very accurately whether the field goal was good or not, either. But if you’re the Field or the Back Judge you’re standing directly under the goalpost you’re responsible for and looking up as the football passes by. That’s your job (and your only job) during field goal attempts.

That’s a complete non sequitur. There is no vantage point, anywhere, that will give you a definitive view as to whether a ball over the top of the uprights was good or no good. There are plenty of vantage points which will give you a definitive answer as to a ball beneath the tops of the uprights.

If this is not the case, why do you think the NFL went to 20-foot uprights after the 1965 controversy, and then to 30-foot uprights in 1974? Were they just trying to enrich their buddies in the goalpost business?

Longer uprights would be more dangerous to exultant mobs of students pulling them down to celebrate winning The Big Game.

I think you’d have a very good vantage point if you stood slightly in front of the post, rather than to one side or the other as you seem to be assuming. The ball is coming pretty much from the front, not from the side, so the ref will have a clear view of the trajectory.


I think Freddy the Pig answered your question.

If you don’t believe it, just go to your local high school stadium and have someone kick field goals for fun. Sooner or later, one is going to zip quickly over one of the uprights, and you won’t be able to tell if the ball was inside or outside of the upright(or would have hit it and deflected through or out). The tough part is judging speed, the angle and how high over the top of the post the ball passes.

It doesn’t happen a lot, but as has been pointed out it does happen that a call is missed. The NFL changed their uprights for this very reason. I don’t see why college wouldn’t just make life easier and put up posts that are comparable (or equal) to the NFL’s.

I thought of this question watching the Nevada/Boise St. game. The 2 missed FG kicks weren’t argued, but one shank looked close enough that I would personally like to have seen a different angle. Since no one argued, I figured the refs got it right, but I thought it would haven’t even been an issue if the posts were NFL size.

As Freddy points out, the angle and speed make the kick hard to judge. Can you place yourself in a better position? Probably. Will it be perfect? I doubt it. Especially with college kicking from some harsh angles sometimes (from the left or right hash marks), the angle is instantly changed from a head on kick.

Over the post is a wag at best. If the ball truly traveled over the post, then it would be fair to assume it would hit the post, correct? Why not let the post and ball determine the success or failure of a kick, not a judgement call.

So you stand in front and slightly to the one side. The post is only three or four inches in diameter, so you’re talking shifting less than the distance between your eyes anyway.

I am not 100% certain, but I seem to recall that the ball must pass completely inside the upright and its extension upward to count, so if the ball passed directly over the upright, for example, it would still not count.

I don’t think in general, college uprights are that short. As I recall, the uprights in Nevada were noticeably shorter than the typical college upright.

I’m not saying it doesn’t *look *easy. I’m saying it’s not as easy as it looks. It might help if you all happen to have an opportunity to try it.

The fact that was posted above (that an NFL game was decided on a bad decision by a ref not judging a kick correctly) doesn’t seem to hold any water with anyone. That’s fine. I’m not a professional referee. But, apparently some guys in stripes have a problem with it also.

This may be the case. I don’t know. But a goal post to bank off of would be the easiest way to prove that a ball would carom in or out. It would also provide an easy way to take the refs out of a decision that could potentially decide the outcome. Why not just remove the potential problem?

Even if a call were close, there are no camera angles to show if it was a good kick or not. So, you could never review something like this. Long posts take any guess by an official out of it. And there is no way the other official on the other side could see it clearly, so he’s no good.