Texas’ University Interscholastic League Adopts New Rules for Relay Takeoff Judging in High School Competition

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 19. THE University Interscholastic League, the organization that governs high school sports in Texas, has amended its rules regarding relay takeoff judging, giving the human eye more credence than the electronic takeoff pads.

In April, Swimming World, reported that the electronic takeoff pads at the Texas 5A girls' championship were called into question after Southlake Carroll was disqualified in the 400 freestyle relay when the electronic pad registered a negative takeoff time, meaning the toes of the swimmer on the blocks were not touching the pad before the swimmer in the water touched the wall. But photo evidence showed that the swimmer on the blocks had not false started.

The rules at the time stated that a negative reaction time reported by the electronic system superseded anything seen by the human takeoff judges (including belief that a takeoff was legitimate), and Southlake Carroll's team was disqualified, costing them a state championship.

Today, in a letter published in the UIL newsletter, Assistant Athletic Director Traci Neely broke down the new rule that will be enforced in the upcoming season:

In any UIL competition meet, when electronic relay takeoff (RTO) equipment is utilized in addition to two (2) relay takeoff judges, the determination of an early relay takeoff is as follows:

It shall be a rule violation when a combination of two of the three components agree on an infraction with at least one relay takeoff judge and the electronic equipment or both judges.

In cases where the RTO equipment records a negative differential of any value, only a potential violation may have occurred, which must be confirmed by at least one relay takeoff judge before a determination of an actual early takeoff can be concluded. Moreover, a positive differential recorded by the electronic equipment does not overrule an early takeoff recorded by both judges.

The UIL rule does not allow a leeway in negative readings of the electronic takeoff pad, similar to rules in NCAA meets, though the NCAA dictates that a negative reading from the electronic touchpad is a final decision, even if the takeoff judge does not see an infraction. If the electronic takeoff pad at the Texas state meet registers a -0.09 reading on a takeoff, and a human judge does not believe the swimmer on the blocks left early, the team will not be disqualified.

Click here to read the full letter by Traci Neely.