Why was Iowa’s long snapper an eligible receiver after snapping the ball on Iowa Nov. 4, 2017 swinging gate play?

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?

1 Answer

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.

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