Where is the mercy rule?

SPEARFISH — On the heels of Spearfish losing to Pierre T.F. Riggs, 103-0, Thursday night in the Class AA playoffs, there is an uproar over why Class AA and Class AAA don’t have the mercy rule and running clock.

Currently, nine-man football and Class 11A are the only ones that implement the mercy rule and running clock in South Dakota.

In a phone interview with the Black Hills Pioneer this morning, Dr. Dan Swartos, the Executive Director for the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA), said they have tried to get the mercy rule and running clock implemented in Class AA and AAA football for a few years now, but athletic directors have said no to the rule change.

 “That’s something we have offered and have suggested to Class AA and Class AAA for a number of years, and AA and AAA schools have declined to use it,” said Swartos. “A large reason for that is because of the distances they drive… They don’t want to drive across the state and play a half (game) of football. It wasn’t something they wanted to do.”

Swartos said that the idea of a mercy rule and running clock in Class AA and Class AAA is a conversation that needs to be had again.

“It’s something we will bring forward to them again in the future. Probably when we have our football advisory meeting once football season is done for situations like last night,” Swartos said.

Swartos was referring to Pierre T.F Riggs defeating Spearfish 103-0 in the Class AA playoffs.

 “To be honest, we would have a lot more scores like that (103-0) in nine-man football if we didn’t have the mercy rule. I know Lemmon-McIntosh won 78-8 in a game that was stopped at half time last week,” Swartos said. “It’s something we need to be realistic about and have a good conversation. It’s not doing anybody any good. Nobody wants what happened last night to happen. Of course Spearfish doesn’t want that to happen, we don’t want that to happen, Pierre doesn’t want that to happen; it’s not good for anybody. It’s definitely something we will look at. That is something we will have a long discussion with our football advisory and have something to move forward with to our athletic directors, and then to our board.”

Spearfish Spartan Head Football Coach Chad McCarty is in favory of the mercy rule and running clock.

Spartan coach Chad McCarty would only say Pierre has a good team, but he did say all classes need a running clock and mercy rule. “You can still bring only so many guys on the bus when they come to a place across the state. It’s still high school kids, they get down, do things, but if you don’t sub down and keep running things like a fake punt up 54-0, then it doesn’t matter, and there needs to be a running clock and mercy rule,” said McCarty. “I understand the idea that you should be able to sub down low enough to get things done, but when you don’t sub down and you keep doing things like running a fake punt up 54-0, then it doesn’t matter. There should be a running clock and mercy rule.”

Swartos said the process for rules changes is it starts at the advisory level, and then it goes to the athletic directors, and then the SDHSAA board of directors.

Swartos again reiterated the biggest reason he heard for Class AA and Class AAA not having a mercy rule or running clock in football is because of distance.

“If Sturgis is driving to Aberdeen, or to Watertown, and they only play half a football (game), that could seem like a waste of resources,” Swartos said.

Pierre Coach Steve Steele said in an email to the Pioneer Friday, “Obviously we were on the winning end, but I didn’t enjoy last nights game and feel so bad for Spearfish. At the same time I am extremely proud of our young guys for executing and playing hard. It was a bad situation all the way around and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I am sorry for anyone who was offended and hope they can understand that we were trying to let our young guys play in the time they received and were not trying be disrespectful in any way.”

Swartos also talked about doing a reclassification in football. 

“That’s something we were planning on doing anyway, but with the new school opening up in Sioux Falls, we are probably looking at reorganizing and looking at our classifications to see what we have and what works the best for everybody,” said Swartos. “We run two-year classification cycles so we will have another year of this cycle, and it’s something we’ll start talking about this year to get it implemented for year after next.”

Santos said reclassifying football is a complicated issue.

“It’s a complicated issue trying to balance what schools of all sizes want, but it’s something we will look at this year, and we will look at the mercy rule in Class AA and AAA,” he said.

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