Download PDF of Rules

Intramural flag football games will be conducted under the rules of the NIRSA – National Intramural/Recreational Sports Association 16th Edition (2012-2013) Flag and Touch Football Rulebook and Official’s Manual with the following modifications.

Participants should be aware that there is a risk of injury in participation of intramural sports due to the inherent nature of the activity. Individuals are encouraged to have a physical examination and to obtain adequate health and accident insurance prior to participation. Individuals participate in intramural activities at their own risk!

Table of Contents

  1. General Information
  2. Equipment and Uniform
  3. Game Regulations
  4. How to Play Flag Football
  5. Rule / Penalty Enforcement

General Information

For more information on general intramural sports rules and policies, please review the 2016- 2017 IM Handbook.

Location: All Intramural Flag Football games are played at the Outdoor Center North Turf Fields located at 1st Street and Stadium Drive in Champaign.

Advancing to Playoffs:
Flag Football teams that meet the following criteria will advance to compete in the playoffs:

  1. Team must have won:
    • 3 games or more (out of 4) during the regular season = Regular length seasons
    • 2 games or more (out of 3) during the regular season = Shortened Seasons
  2. Team must have an average sportsmanship rating of at least a 3
  3. Team must have completed the online captains quiz
  4. Team must have NO regular season forfeits

Playoff criteria will only be adjusted in situations where facility or weather conditions limit play. It is the captain’s responsibility to check their playoff schedules which will be made available on IMLeagues as soon as possible after the regular season has concluded

Game Time: Game time is the scheduled division time, unless the previous game goes over the allotted time. Schedules can be accessed through the IM Leagues website interface.

  1. Teams should be warmed up and ready to play as soon as the previous game ends on their field.
  2. Teams should report to the check in table a minimum of 15 minutes prior to the scheduled game time to sign in.

i-card Sign-In Procedures: All players must present a valid i-card in order to participate in an Intramural contest. Upon arrival prior to an intramural contest, all participants must sign in with the Intramurals staff assistant and present their i-card for identification purposes.

Failure to Sign in: If a player is found participating in the contest without having signed in on the official intramural gamesheet and doesn’t have their i-card present or are ineligible for the One-Time Exception Policy, said team will forfeit the game and all forfeit fees and consequences will apply.  If the participant has his/her i-card present or has not used his or her 1 time exception, the team may still play the game with designated disadvantages.

One – Time Exception: The One-Time exception policy is designed so that students who have forgotten their i-card, but are printed on the roster, may still sign-in for their game.  Each participant may use this exception policy once per semester.  To use the One-Time exception policy the following criteria must be met:

  1. Must be pre-printed on their team roster
  2. Must have a valid government Photo ID (Driver’s License, Passport, State issued ID)
  3. Must not have previously used a One-Time Exception during that semester

Roster Policy:  An individual is bound to the first team that he or she signs into a game for.  Participants must sign up on the online roster before 2 pm on the day of the contest (except for Sunday games) or they will not be allowed to sign-in onsite or participate.  For Sunday games, players must be added to the roster before 2 pm on the preceding Friday.   A participant is not formally considered to be on that team’s official roster until he or she physically signs in for that team at an actual contest.

IMLeagues Mobile Confirmation: In the event a player has not signed up for their team before the rosters are printed, they may show the Intramural Staff their name on the IMLeagues Roster online.  This must be done by an Intramural Supervisor so you will have to be patient and wait until one is available to help out.  If you show as ineligible on the mobile site, nothing can be done until the office is opened.  It is highly recommended that you join your team roster before 2pm on the day of your game (2pm on Friday for Sunday games) to ensure your ability to play in the contest.

Defaults: Should a team know in advance that they cannot field a team on a given night; they may avoid forfeit fee and loss of playoff eligibility consequences by contacting the Intramural Office at 217-244-1344, or to default their game. All defaults must be called or emailed in before 2pm on the business day of the contest, or before 2pm on the Friday before a Sunday contest. Please make sure to include your name (captain), team name, sport, and the day and time you are playing so that you game can be defaulted properly.

  1. Teams losing by default will lose the contest by the same scoring structure that is applied for forfeits.
  2. Teams losing by default will receive a sportsmanship rating of “C”.
  3. Teams losing by default will remain eligible for playoffs.

Forfeit: Teams who are not present (flags and jerseys on) at their scheduled contest by game time or are unable to produce enough eligible players to field a team, will be assessed a forfeit aside from the following Grace Period Exception

Grace Period Exception: A team may delay its right to win by forfeit and allow the other team a grace period of ten minutes to acquire a properly equipped team.

  1. Once a ten minute grace period is granted by the team who is ready, they may not rescind their decision and take a forfeit before the ten minute period passes.
  2. If ten minutes passes after the scheduled game time, and the minimum number of eligible players required to play for the opposing team has not arrived, then the team that is ready to play must accept the forfeit.
  3. If the forfeiting team is able to obtain the minimum number of properly equipped players before the ten-minute grace period expires, the game shall be started the opposing team shall be given the ball and choice of goal awarded to the opposing team.

Forfeit Consequences: Teams who are assessed a forfeit will:

  1. Be charged a $75.00 forfeit fee.
  2. Be ineligible to advance to the playoffs.
  3. Upon a second forfeit, teams will be assessed a second $75.00 forfeit fee, and will be removed from the league.
  4. Teams losing by forfeit will lose the contest by a score of 1-0 and a sportsmanship rating of a 0.

Sportsmanship Ratings: In order for a team to qualify for post season playoffs, they must have a 3.0 average in sportsmanship during regular season pool play.  Any team receiving an “0” rating during the regular season will be declared ineligible for post-season tournament play.

The Intramural Activities Program expects all participants to respect and abide by all rules and policies, show respect and concern for their opponent and intramural staff, and refrain from abusive language, poor attitude, and manipulation of the rules to further their chance of winning. Upholding high standards of integrity and fair play is of the utmost importance to the Intramural Activities Program.

Sportsmanship ratings are given to teams after each contest by the intramural manager, supervisors, staff assistants, and game officials. These ratings reflect behavior before, during, and after the contest. The decision reached will be final. Ratings will be given according to the following scale:

4 = Team shows above average conduct and sportsmanship

3 = Team shows average conduct and sportsmanship.

2 = Team shows below average conduct and sportsmanship.

1 = Team shows poor conduct and sportsmanship.

0 = Team has unacceptable conduct and sportsmanship.

Protests:  Protests are restricted to matters of rule interpretation and player eligibility. Protests concerning judgment calls by an official and protests of sportsmanship ratings will not be reviewed. In the case of a rule interpretation, notification of a protest must be made to a game official at the time of the alleged infraction and prior to the next live ball. For protests of player eligibility, a team may protest no more than three participants on any given night. All eligibility protests must be made prior to the end of the contest.  Please note that captains cannot protest eligibility or a rule interpretation once the gamesheet with the final score and sportsmanship rating has been signed. If a protest form has been filed, Captain’s and or designated team members should not sign the gamesheet.

For additional information: Please review the 2016- 2017 IM Handbook


All players are required to bring a valid UIUC ID (i-card) to all Intramural Flag Football games

Jersey Policy: Participants are required to wear their own team shirts during all Intramural contests. For Flag Football, Soccer, Broomball, and Basketball games teams must have a set of home jerseys and a set of away jerseys.

Home jerseys:  MUST BE WHITE. 

Away jerseys: Must be any color other than white and each member of your team must be wearing the SAME SHADE OF A SPECIFIC COLOR.

  1. This is necessary to ensure that our staff can easily identify team members based on jersey color. Please refer to IM Leagues  to see if you are listed as the home team or the away team.
  2. Failure to abide by the jersey policy may result in a forfeit, or technical foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty being assessed against your team at the beginning of the contest. Intramural Supervisors on duty will have the final say whether a team has acceptable jerseys to begin a contest.  Jerseys will not be available for checkout at Intramural games.

Game balls: Game balls will be provided. Men’s teams shall use a regular size ball while women’s and co-rec teams may use either the regular or intermediate size ball.  It is permissible for a team to use their own ball when they are on offense given that the ball is regulation size.

Flag Belts: Flag belts will be provided to each team on site. Shirts must be tucked in and flag belts must be worn on the outside of all clothing with the clip in front, one flag on each hip and one flag on the back.

Shoes: Only athletic type soccer/football, running, court, or turf shoes with or without molded plastic or rubber cleats are allowed. All cleats must be less than ½ inch, metal/sharp plastic cleats are not allowed. All players must wear athletic shoes. No sandals, boots, or bare feet


  1. Players must wear athletic apparel with no exposed metal, no belt loops, and no pockets.
  2. Baseball style hats, bandannas, and sunglasses are not permitted. No other headwear with knots or dangerous materials is allowed.
  3. Players may not wear casts/splints under any circumstances at any time and all pads/braces must be above the waist. Players who wear a knee brace with exposed metal or metal hinges are required to cover it.
  4. Players may wear kneepads, gloves, covered knee braces, headbands, and knit caps.
  5. Players may not wear any exposed jewelry of any type besides medical alert bracelets (please have these taped down).

All equipment is subject to the approval of the intramural staff on duty

Game Regulations

Rosters:  All men’s and women’s divisions play 7 on 7 flag football. The minimum required to play is 5. All Co-Rec divisions play 8 on 8. See co-rec modifications below for co-rec player policies.

  1. Team rosters are limited to a maximum of 20 players

The Playing Field: Respective lines to gain (1st down) for each team in order are the 20, 40, 20, Goaline.

  1. The point of the ball determines if it crosses the line.
  2. Hash marks will divide the width of the field into thirds, 15 yards each.
    • When the spot of the ball is between the hash mark and sideline, the ball will be put in play on the hash mark creating a wide and short side.
    • When the spot of the ball is between the hash marks, the ball will be put in play where the previous play ended.
  3. The side and end lines are out of bounds. Players, coaches, and fans shall stay between the 20-yard lines at all times.

Out – Of – Bounds: A player or loose ball is out-of-bounds when any part of him/her or the ball touches anything, other than another player or game official who is ON or outside the sideline or end line.

Two ball spotters (small plastic cones):  The ORANGE cone marks the offensive scrimmage line, the YELLOW cone the defensive line. The ball spotters will always be one yard apart.

Starting the game:

  • The referee will conduct a coin toss
  • The winner will select to defer his/her option until the second half, to start on offense or defense, or to defend a specific goal. Each half of the game will begin with the ball placed on the 14-yard line

Timing: The officials will be in charge of keeping time. Games shall consist of four 10-minute running clock quarters and 5-minute halftime. However the final two minutes of the first half (second quarter) and second half (fourth quarter) shall utilize a STOP CLOCK where:

  • Incomplete legal or illegal forward pass-starts on the snap.
  • Out-of-bounds-starts on the snap.
  • Safety-starts on the snap.
  • Team time-out-starts on the snap.
  • First down-depends on play achieving first down.
  • Touchdown-starts on snap (after the try).
  • Penalty-dependent on the previous play. (Exception: Delay of game starts on the snap).
  • Referee’s timeout-starts at referee’s discretion.
  • Touchback-starts on snap.
  • Change of possession-depends on previous play.
  • Team B is awarded a new series that starts on the snap.
  • Inadvertent whistle-starts on the ready.
  • Team attempting to conserve time illegally-starts on the ready.
  • Team attempting to consume time illegally-starts on the snap.

End of the game: Captains are required to check and verify all information by signing the scorecard.

*Inclement Weather: A game shall be considered “official” and the result final if after the conclusion of the first half-time the game is stopped for inclement weather. In the event that the first half was complete, but the contest was tied, an overtime period will be scheduled to determine a winner. If the first half of the game was not completed when the contest was stopped, the game will be rescheduled and started over from the beginning on the reschedule date


Touchdowns: 6 points (9 points for female-involved touchdown in Coed games)

  1. When a runner legally advances so the ball penetrates the vertical plane of the opponent’s goal line.
  2. The player scoring the touchdown must have flags checked by nearest official for illegal attaching of the flag belt.

Try after touchdown:

Captain has three choices:

  1. 1 point from 3 yd line
  2. 2 points from the 10 yd line
  3. 3 points from the 20 yd line
  4. If defense forces turnover on try, they CANNOT return it for points. Play is dead.

Safety: 2 points. A runner carries the ball from the field of play to or across his/her own goal line, and it becomes dead there in his/her possession.

  1. When a safety is scored (2 points) the ball belongs to the scoring team at their 14-yard line.
  2. After any score, the ball shall be placed in play at the opposing team’s 14-yard line, unless moved by penalty.

Substitutions: Players may substitute at any time between downs provided they are ready to play.

Time-outs: Each team is allowed one 30-second time-out per half and there are no time-outs in overtime periods.

  1. Time-outs do not carryover from 1st half to 2nd half or from the 2nd half to Overtime.

Mercy Rule: A mercy rule goes in to effect at any time after the 8-minute mark in the fourth quarter and the game shall end. The rule goes in to effect if the scoring spread is:

  1. Men’s / Women’s leagues – 19 points
  2. Coed leagues – 25 points
  3. At any time during the second half if the point spread is 50 points or greater the mercy rule will be in effect and the game shall end.

Overtime Procedure:  If the game is tied at the end of regulation, overtime will commence. The winner of a coin toss shall be given options of offense, defense, or direction. Field captains will alternate choices if additional overtime periods are played. Both teams will go the same direction in overtime.

  1. Each team will be given a series of downs (4 downs) from the same 20-yard line.
  2. If the first team which is awarded the ball scores, the second team will still have 4 downs to attempt to tie or win the game.
  3. Following an intercepted pass or lateral, the ball automatically becomes dead and the offensive team’s possession is over.
  4. Try for points will still be attempted in a normal manner by any team who scores a touchdown.
  5. If two cycles of overtime play have been completed (both teams have played offense and defense twice), it is required that teams try for 2 or 3 points instead of 1 point.

Co-Rec Modifications ONLY

All previously listed rules apply to co-rec games in addition to rules listed below.

Number of Players

The number of players is 8 on 8.  The minimum number of players to start a game is 6 and teams must have at least 2 men and 2 women to start.  Each team is allowed a maximum of 4 men and 4 women on the field at one time.  Please see table below for legal Co-Rec lineups.

Legal Co-Rec Lineups



If a female scores a touchdown, the point value is 9.  If a female player throws a legal forward pass, and a touchdown is scored by any Team player and there has been no change of possession, the point value is 9.  All other touchdowns are 6 points.


Substitutions must be man for man or woman for woman only.

Male Runners: A male runner CANNOT be the first player to advance the ball through the scrimmage line. Once the ball has been ran or passed through the scrimmage line, any player may break the plane. There are no restrictions concerning runs by women.

Male To Male Forward Pass Completions

Closed Play: A male player may not complete a legal forward pass to a male.

Open Play: Any player may complete a pass to any other player (On male to male completions, the male must be beyond the line of scrimmage).

Consecutive Forward Passes: During the offensive team’s possession there may not be two (2) consecutive legal forward pass completions on downs from a male passer to a male receiver (includes the try). Once a pass is completed from a male passer to a male receiver, the play is closed. To open a play, a legally thrown forward pass must meet the all of the following criteria:

  • Female involvement (Passer and/or Receiver)
  • Legal forward pass
  • Resulting in positive yards

A male to male completion and a subsequent lateral to a female does NOT open the play, and would result in a penalty if the play was already closed.

How to Play Flag Football

Starting the Play: The first quarter and third quarter will start with the offensive team on their 14-yard line. The offense must snap the ball within 25 seconds after the Referee has blown the whistle to put the ball in play.

  1. Following the ready whistle, no defensive players may break the plane of the defensive scrimmage line until the snap.
  2. No offensive player shall make a false start or any action that simulates the start of play.

The Snap: The ball is live after a legal snap. A legal snap consists of one fluid motion from the ground to a player who is at least two yards behind the line of scrimmage.

  1. They do not have to pass the ball between the legs.
  2. Both of their feet must be behind the line of scrimmage.

Line of Scrimmage: The orange marker determines the offensive line of scrimmage and yellow marker determines the defensive line of scrimmage. The markers are placed 1 yard apart. The line of scrimmage is determined by the previous play and is the point of the ball where the player was de-flagged.

Line of Scrimmage Sets: All players are subject to motion, position, and illegal procedure rules:

  1. The snapper is the only A player required to be on their scrimmage line (1st ball spotter–orange) at the snap
  2. One player may be in motion, but not forward motion, at the snap.
  3. Following a huddle or shift, each offensive player must come to a full stop for one second before the snap.

Zone-Line-to-Gain and New Series:

The offensive team has 4 consecutive downs to

advance the ball across the next zone line-to-gain.

Respective lines to gain (1st down) for each team

in order are the 20, 40, 20, Goaline.

  1. A new series is awarded:
    • To the offense if the line-to-gain is reached or a penalty which carries an automatic first down is accepted,
    • To the defense if the offense fails to reach the line-to-gain after four consecutive downs,
    • To either team if a change of possession or a kick occurs during the down.

Passing the ball:

A pass is any exchange of the ball that involves airtime. This can be a forward or backward, overhand pass, underhand pitch, or any other toss or flip of the ball. All players are eligible to touch or catch a pass.

  1. Only one forward pass may be thrown per scrimmage down, but NOT on kicks, punts, or interceptions.
  2. The pass begins when the ball is released from the passer’s hand. The ball is dead if the passer is de-flagged before the release.

Illegal Passes:

  1. If the passer’s entire body and the ball are beyond the line of scrimmage when the ball is released
  2. The ball is intentionally grounded.
  3. The passer catches his/her own untouched pass.
  4. When there is more than one forward pass during a scrimmage down.
  5. If a forward pass is thrown after a change in team possession.

Backward Pass:  A player may pass the ball backward at any time. The initial direction of a pass determines whether a pass is forward or backward.

  1. Backward passes that hit the ground in play are dead at the spot.
  2. Backward passes that go out of bounds belong to the offense unless the ball goes out of bounds behind a goal line, and then the play will result in a touchback or safety.
  3. Backward passes are unlimited.

Completed Pass: A forward pass is completed when caught by a player inbounds. It is a catch as long as one foot, or first part of the body to touch the ground, is inbounds and the player simultaneously has possession of the ball.

Simultaneous Catch: If a forward, or backward, pass is caught simultaneously by opposing players the ball becomes dead.  It is considered a completed pass and belongs to the offensive team.

Hand-offs: Any player may hand the ball forward or backward at any time. If the ball is tossed or there is airtime between the ball and the catch, then passing rules will apply.

Runner: The offensive player carrying or acting as the ball carrier.

Downing the Runner: The runner is down once his flags are removed, his knee or body touches the ground, or runs out of bounds.

De- Flagging : The action of removing the flags from the runner. The players must have possession of the ball before they can be legally de-flagged. Once a player in possession of the ball is legally de-flagged, the play is dead.

1 hand touch rule: When a runner previously loses their flag belt or is lost by a non-defensive player, play continues and the defense will be required to touch the player with one hand from the shoulders to the knees to down the runner. An offensive player may not intentionally remove their flag belt

Fumble: If an offensive player loses control of the ball, the defense may catch the ball prior to it hitting the ground. Once the ball touches the ground, the ball is dead and is awarded to the team last in possession

Ending the Play Summary:

The ball becomes a dead when

  1. The whistle blows
  2. Ball goes out of bounds.
  3. Any part of the runner’s body other than a hand or foot touches the ground. Ball in possession is considered part of the hand.
  4. After any score.
  5. Any kick or punt comes to rest on the ground and no player attempts to secure it, or a muff hits the ground.
  6. A forward or backward pass, fumble, or snap hits the ground (Dead at spot on backward pass, fumble, and snap).
  7. The flag belt is removed legally (If the belt falls off, one hand touch between shoulders and knees).
  8. If a player or ball from an adjoining field interferes with the result of a play the official shall stop play and offer the team in possession the option of replaying the down or taking the ball at the spot of interruption.

Punting the Ball

  1. On fourth down, the Referee will ask the offensive captain if they want to punt.
  2. There are no fake punts.
  3. If the offense wants to change their decision to punt or not, they must call a time-out.
  4. Neither K nor R may advance beyond their respective scrimmage lines until the ball is kicked. After receiving the snap, the kicker must kick immediately and in a continuous motion. The kicker may not kick the ball to him or herself or any other member of the kicking team. Defensive players may jump in an attempt to block the kick provided they do not cross the defensive scrimmage line before the ball is kicked.
  5. If a punt touches a player on either team and then hits the ground it is dead and belongs to R. If a punt hits an R player, and is then caught in the air by R it can be advanced. If a punt hits an R player, and is caught in the air by K it belongs to K at that spot. Exception: Punts blocked by R and caught in the air by K behind their line of scrimmage (first ball spotter-orange) may be advanced by K.
  6. If a punted ball goes out of bounds anytime before being touched, or comes to rest between the goal lines it shall belong to R at that spot.
  7. There are no fair catches. The punting team may not interfere with the receiving team’s ability to catch the ball. If the punting team touches the ball first, the receiving team can take the ball at that spot or the result of the play.

Rule / Penalty Enforcement

Note: Flag Football is NOT a CONTACT sport. However, incidental contact will occur.


  1. The captain’s first choice of any penalty option shall be irrevocable.
  2. Decisions involving penalties shall be made before any charged time-out is granted to either team.

DEAD BALL FOULS: Fouls that occur before or simultaneous to the snap.

LIVE BALL FOULS: Fouls that occur during the scrimmage down.

Loss of 5 Yards:

Dead Ball Fouls

  • Delay of Game (PS)
  • Encroachment (PS) (2nd Consecutive encroachment – loss of 10 yards)
  • False Start (PS)
  • Illegal Snap (PS)
  • Illegal Formation (PS)
  • Illegal Substitution (PS)

Live Ball Fouls

  • Aiding the runner by Teammate
  • Failure to Wear Required Equipment
  • Illegal Forward Pass (+ loss of down, if by Team A) (SF)
  • Illegal Backward Pass (+ Loss of Down) (SF)
  • Illegal Motion (PS)
  • Illegal Procedure (PS)
  • Illegal Shift (PS)
  • Illegal Male Advancement –Co-Rec (PS)
  • Intentional Grounding (+ Loss of Down) (SF)

Loss of 10 yards:

Dead Ball Fouls

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct (PS)

Live Ball Fouls

  • Illegal Player Equipment
  • Kick Catching Interference (punts) (PS or Spot)
  • Flag Guarding
  • Illegal Flag Belt Removal
  • Illegal Bat, Kick
  • Illegal Participation
  • Illegal Contact
  • Hurdling over a player
  • Illegally secured flag belt (+ Loss of Down) (PS)
  • Pass Interference – Defense (PS)
  • Pass Interference – Offense (PS)
  • Personal Foul (SS)
  • Roughing the Passer (+ Automatic First Down) (SS)

Loss of 10 yards and automatic ejection:

  • Flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct by players or non-players
  • Flagrant spiking, kicking, or throwing the ball
  • Flagrant personal fouls
  • Tackling
  • Fighting
  • Intentional Tampering with Flag Belt

Illegal Contact / Personal Fouls:

  1. Punch, strike, strip, steal or attempt to steal the ball from a player in possession.
  2. Trip, clip or hurdle any player.
  3. Contact an opponent who is on the ground, or after the ball is declared dead.
  4. Throw the runner to the ground.
  5. Deliberately drive or run into a defensive player or lower the shoulder.
  6. Tackle a runner by grasping or encircling with the hands or arms.
  7. Hold or slow a runner by grasping or encircling with the hands or arms.
  8. Aid the runner; grab, push or pull a teammate with the ball.
  9. Stiff-arm an opponent.
  10. Use hands or body to block an opponent.

Legal and Illegal Offensive Screen Blocking

  1. Offensive players may protect the runner by screening.
  2. The offensive screen block shall take place without contact and the screener may maintain a position (moving or stationary) between the defensive player and the runner.
  3. The screen blocker shall have his/her arms at their sides or behind their back. Any use of arms, elbows or legs to initiate contact during an offensive player’s screen block is illegal. A blocker may use a hand or arm to break a fall or retain balance. Players must remain on their feet before, during, and after screen blocking. No part of the screener’s body, except their feet, may be in contact with the ground.
  4. Defensive players must avoid the offensive player’s screen block, and may not use their arms or hands as a wedge to contact the offensive blocker.
  5. Illegal contact between the blocker/rusher will be called against the player determined to have initiated contact (similar to “block/charge” in basketball).
  6. Offensive screen blocking beyond the line of scrimmage when a forward pass crosses the line is illegal.

Flag Guarding: Runners shall not guard their flags with any part or extensions of their body at any time while the defense is attempting to de-flag the runner.

Pass Interference: Pass interference is defined as bumping, pushing, or unnecessary contact with an opponent OR restricting a player from access to a pass while on offense or defense. Players may not wave their hands in the face of an opponent. Players may not go through opponents to get to a ball in flight