Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, provides insights about rules changes and the mindset of college football referees. The CFO is the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level.

This year’s Fiesta Bowl game between Oregon and Kansas State provided a very unusual play that has generated a lot of discussion among those who follow college football.   On an extra-point attempt the kick was partially blocked and a member of the defense picked up the ball at about the two-yard line.  In starting his return, he circled back into the end zone where he was tackled. As ACC Referee Ron Cherry correctly explained, this resulted in a one-point safety.  This caused a lot of head scratching: how can a safety count only one point?

The question involves the point value for scores.  As everyone knows, there are three ways to score in a football game: touchdown, field goal and safety. Except on the extra-point attempt, of course, a touchdown counts six points, a field goal three, and a safety two.  However, on the extra-point attempt the point value is different: a touchdown is worth two points, a field goal counts one point, and a safety also counts one point.

Kicking the extra point and “going for two” are so common that we really don’t think about them as a field goal and a touchdown.  But in fact that is what they are. We don’t think it odd to have a “2-point touchdown” or a “1-point field goal” but that is what we have when a team successfully goes for two or kicks the extra point, respectively.  It is the point value that is different on the try.

The safety is on the try is extremely rare, and so it gets lots of attention when it happens.  But again, the play itself is a safety whether it happens in the regular part of the game or on the try—it is the point value (one point instead of two) that is different on the try.