What is Pass Interference?

Offensive pass interference according to the NCAA 2009-10 Rule Book:
Illegal Contact and Pass Interference
ARTICLE 8.
b. Offensive pass interference by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone during a legal forward pass play in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone is contact that interferes with a Team B eligible player. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents. It is not offensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-VI, VII, XIII, XVIII and XIX):
1. When, after the snap, a Team A ineligible player immediately charges and contacts an opponent at a point not more than one yard beyond the neutral zone and does not continue the contact more than three yards beyond the neutral zone.
2.    When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball (A.R. 7-3-8-XII).
3.    When the pass is in flight and two or more eligible players are in the area where they might receive or intercept the pass and an offensive player in that area impedes an opponent, and the pass is not catchable.
Defensive pass interference according to the NCAA 2009-10 Rule Book:
Illegal Contact and Pass Interference
ARTICLE 8.
c. Defensive pass interference is contact beyond the neutral zone by a Team B player whose intent to impede an eligible opponent is obvious and it could prevent the opponent the opportunity of receiving a catchable forward pass. When in question, a legal forward pass is catchable. Defensive pass interference occurs only after a legal forward pass is thrown. It is not defensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-I, IV, V, IX-XI, XIV and XV):
1.    When, after the snap, opposing players immediately charge and establish contact with opponents at a point that is within one yard beyond the neutral zone.
2.    When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball (A.R. 7-3-8-XII).
3.    When a Team B player legally contacts an opponent before the pass is thrown (A.R. 7-3-8-XIII).
4. When a Team A potential kicker, from scrimmage kick formation, simulates a scrimmage kick by throwing the ball high and deep, and contact by a Team B player occurs.
Okay, this stems from the play that occurred just last week with 7:53 to go in the first quarter. EMU had the ball first and 10 from the Michigan 44 yard line. Schmitt passed down field to #8 Johnny Sears (who was booted from Michigan's 2007 squad). Sears was being covered, quite well I might add, by #33 Boubacar Cissoko.

As the pass left the hand of Schmitt, both the Sears and Cissoko were jockeying for position. It was clear that Cissoko had the inside advantage on Sears as the ball was under thrown. As the pass neared the two players, Cissoko leaned in to try and intercept the pass. As he did so, Sears jumped on the back of Cissoko and thwarted any attempt at the INT.

For demonstration purposes, I've taken my digital camera and shot the recorded game from my DVR. It's very guerrilla technology, I know. But it's the best I can do on short notice. There's no video of just this play anywhere else on the internet...so we had to improvise. Enjoy.



Clearly, even the BTN announcers could call this from a mile away. I was in row 84 of section 40 and me and everyone around us knew this flag was on Sears. The boo's that rang down from 107,000 people was maybe the loudest the stadium was all day. That was just a first of many less than agreeable calls made the officials.

But this begs the question: Was this honest to goodness defensive pass interference? And the answer is, of course...NO! If Cissoko didn't have inside leverage, and if he was trying to play Sears and not the ball...which basically means Cissoko would have had have been turned around looking at Sears and not the ball, then maybe this call would have made sense.

But clearly Cissoko was going for the ball. His body was blocking Sears from getting inside position, but that's not against the rules. It's not Cissoko's fault the pass was thrown too far to the inside.

This is textbook corner coverage. This is also a very bad call by the side-judge, Mike Cannon. It gave EMU 15 yards of valuable field position, and led to a 43-yard field goal that tied the game at 3, thus giving EMU the shallow confidence that they might be able to hang with us for 60 minutes.

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