February 13, 2009
Sad news to end the week: Everyone's favorite crazy gimmick offense, the "All-11," was effectively declared illegal today by the far-reaching National Federation of State High School Associations, which closed the "scrimmage kick" loophole the A-11 exploited for its existence. A moment, please, for innovation.
The goal of the A-11 is maximum unpredictability, achieved by putting 11 players wearing eligible receiving numbers on the field at once -- only legal with one player at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and no one under center, as on a punt or field goal -- then shifting them on or off the line of scrimmage at the last second. The result is an essentially random offense with endless combinations of possible receivers, leaving the defense with no idea which five or six players are eligible to go downfield for a pass until a moment before the ball is snapped and no time to react.
Unfortunately, it's equally confusing to officials, and that was deemed just plain "unsportsmanlike":
The NFHS changed the rule and said that on first, second and third down, there must be four players on the line with numbers 50-79. The snapper may have a number 1-49 or 80-89, but he is ineligible.
In essence, there can only be potentially six eligible receivers per down instead of 11 under the A-11.
"It was unethical for them to use a loophole in the rules to run this offense," said Mike Webb, the supervisor of football officials for the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission who is on the NFHS football rules committee. "This takes away the deception."
And what is wrong, I ask you, with deception? This is America! Damn regulators ...
At any rate, proponents of the A-11 (headed by nutty Californians, natch) vow to keep the dream alive in 2009, possibly under a special subdivision devoted to A-11 teams. In the meantime, you can pay your proper respects at the A-11 Web site, where you'll find highlight videos, the A-11 installation and advanced concepts manuals, articles in the national media, links to the four members of the A-11 Football Network and, of course, the A-11 YouTube channel.
Enjoy it, because it will be years before anyone thinks up something this defiantly, aggressively weird (and obviously doomed) again.