"The downfield defender cannot make a play without creating a near certainty of dangerous contact."
May 26, 2022 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 0 comments
During the D-III men’s semifinal between Middlebury and Oklahoma Christian, Middlebury’s Walker Frankenburg made an upline cut when he was hit from his blindside by OC’s Emmanuel Kameri, who broke up the pass but created significant contact with Frankenburg. Here is the play in question:
Although Kameri’s teammate Elliott Moore described why he thought it was a dangerous play, the observer making the ruling called it a clean block. “The observer ruling on this is that he [Kameri] had position in a way that did not appear to me to be dangerous and he got to the disc first,” said the observer. “And, in essence, you [Frankenburg] were coming second and hitting him. So the observer ruling is that this is not a foul, it is a turnover.”
The interpretation from the observer, however, is wrong, according to USA Ultimate’s Rules and Observer committees. They reached out to Ultiworld with a statement about why the contact should have been ruled a dangerous play.
The following statement was issued by National Rules Director Janna Hamaker and National Observer Director Mitch Dengler:
Upon review and discussion, it has been determined by the Observer and Rules Working Groups that the observers should have made/upheld a dangerous play call on this play. The downfield defender (in white) poses a significant risk of injury to the offensive cutter (in pink). The offensive cutter looks to the space he is about to cut in and sees that it is free. He then proceeds to cut into the space with no change in line or speed. The downfield defender is coming from a direction that the offensive cutter is unable to see until the time the disc is arriving. The downfield defender cannot make a play without creating a near certainty of dangerous contact. In addition, it is this downfield defender who has the perspective of the developing play and should have pulled up to avoid contact. This type of forceful collision poses a significant risk of injury, and it is a player’s responsibility to avoid this type of collision. While this play did not end with the offensive cutter injured, and in fact the downfield defender is the one who ends up on the ground due to the collision that he caused, it is still a dangerous play on the downfield defender.
This evaluation was made with the benefit of multiple angle replay. Observers have a difficult task to evaluate plays that happen quickly and without the benefit of replay. Even highly trained and experienced observers will make mistakes at times, or reasonably disagree with one another or with players. While upon review it has been determined that the observers in this game should have made a different call, we support the overall effort and excellence of these observers and the entire observer crew at D3 Nationals.
We felt it was important to clarify this call in advance of the DI Nationals event in order to help clarify expectations around dangerous plays for both participants and observers.