OK, I looked at it. The sideline view is damning. It’s unfortunate, but you have got to have a flag in that situation. That ball was alive in the field of play for a long time, and many players and other personnel came off the bench on that same sideline. But the interesting question is what is the foul that should be called? Potentially, it makes a big difference.
The foul called was illegal participation, a live ball foul, 15 yds. (or, in this case, half the distance to the goal)from the previous spot. There are 2 possible parts of the illegal participation rule that might apply here:
Rule 9-6-3 provides : “No replaced player, substitute, coach, athletic trainer or other attendant shall hinder an opponent, touch the ball, influence the play or otherwise participate.” So, there is a judgment to be made as to whether, in the opinion of the covering official, the people coming off the sideline were involved enough in the play to warrant a flag under 9-6-3.
Rule 9-6-4a provides it is illegal participation: “When any player, replaced player, substitute, coach, athletic trainer or other attendant enters and participates during a down.”
So, the key to illegal participation as the correct call is whether the people coming off the sideline were involved in the play. That’s a judgment call thatI’m not prepared to second guess without knowing a whole lot more than what’s in that video. But, for the sake of the discussion, if it’s not illegal participation, what is it?
Rule 9-8-1h(i) provides that unsportsmanlike conduct includes “Being on the field except as a substitute or replaced player.” And Rule 9-8-2 prohibits any nonplayer from entering the field without the referee’s permission, except for certain specified reasons.
Why is it important to determine whether the proper call was illegal participation or unsportsmanlike conduct? Because enforcement of the penalty for the two fouls is radically different. As pointed out above, IP is a live ball foul and the enforcement includes replay of the down. Unsportsmanlike conduct, however, is enforced like a dead ball foul. So, it would have been 15 yds. from the succeeding spot and the down counts. So, if it were 4th down, the ball would have gone over to WC, March the distance penalty, set the chains and 1st & 10.