Understanding forfeits

Before delving into the topic, a bit of background is required.

The National Federation of State High School Associations sets the rules of the game, and in Maryland those rules are enforced by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and corresponding private school leagues. No organization, on the high school level, drafts a statisticians manual, therefore those on the high school level have turned to the NCAA for questions of statistical application and guidelines.

So what does that mean?

For starters, the NCAA Statisticians Manual serves as the guidebook for high school football stats. Here’s a sampling of how certain stat situations are supposed to be handled: A quarterback is sacked … the quarterback is credited for a run with lost yardage; punt distance is measured from the line of scrimmage … not the spot from where the ball was kicked, etc., etc., etc.

Now, as it pertains to forfeits, there are a few clear guidelines, but many murky applications, as well.

The NCAA currently uses the following designations: no-contest, forfeit and vacated result. Maryland has these designations, as well, but with a slightly different application.


No-Contest: If a game is not played, the NCAA does not recognize it — even if a league awards a win/loss to the involved parties.

Forfeit: In the NCAA, this only occurs when an active game is halted and a forfeit awarded.

Vacated Results: The NCAA has adopted this response in recent years to deal with what where traditionally considered forfeits after the fact. In a vacated result, the win/tie is struck from the offending team’s record, but there is no change to the opponent.

Maryland High School Application

No-Contest: The MPSSAA has clearly defined guidelines as it pertains to a game not played, as to whether it is a no-contest or a forfeit. Therefore, for statistical purposes, those guidelines are followed in all cases involving high school teams in Maryland — whether in the MPSSAA or not. In the event of a no-contest, there is no forfeit, nor any record of a contest played.

Forfeit: Unlike the NCAA, forfeits occur in the high school game almost annually due to any number of rules infractions. For statistical purposes, we received the NCAA’s help in crafting the following response to games that are forfeited (and defined as a forfeit, not a no-contest). Forfeits can occur prior to, during or after a game has been played. In the event of a forfeit prior to a game being played and no game is played, the final score is reflected as 1-0 in favor of the non-offending team. If a forfeit occurs during the game or after a game is played, the final score and all game statistics stand, and only the teams’ win-loss records are changed to reflect the forfeit. [Example, Team A wins a game 21-0, but later forfeits the result. Team A’s record is 0-1 with 21 points for and zero against; while Team B’s record is moved 1-0 with zero points for and 21 against.] The same application is made if a team is forced to forfeit in advance of a contest, but the game is still played (as happened in Anne Arundel and Howard counties during the 2000s). As outlined by the NCAA, statistics from forfeited games are recognized with the exception being the guilty party is not eligible to count that performance toward any individual or team records.

Vacated Results: To date, this has happened only once in Maryland, as defined by the NCAA. Vacated Results generally involve an after-the-fact forfeit of postseason performances. In the event of a traditional forfeit in the postseason, where the forfeit is uncovered and the offending team is withdrawn from the playoffs and the previously defeated team advances, the above forfeit guidelines apply. But in the event of a team “forfeiting” a playoff result after the fact, then the Vacated Results guideline applies. Since it is not statistically possible for a team to forfeit all of its postseason games (since one loss would have eliminated a team, and the defeated opponents did not advance), any accomplishment is stricken from the team’s record and it is noted that the team vacated the postseason accomplishment.

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *