Here is version 3.0 of the Callahan Rules. These rules modify the UPA Ninth Edition Rules for Ultimate Frisbee.

The Callahan Rules are based on the 9th Edition rules to ultimate with clarifications (1995). Except where superseded by the rules outlined below, the 9th Edition rules remain the controlling document.


1.0 The Observer And Linesmen

1.1 Observer Responsibilities

Under the Callahan Rules, each game will have one neutral observer ("the Observer") that will be charged with the following duties:

  • Make sure games start on time
  • Assess penalties for various time violations (time before the pull, time outs, turnovers)
  • Rule on contested calls
  • Assess and track Game and Team Misconduct fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct
  • Keep score
  • Remind players at the beginning of the game of various key rules and concepts
  • Make rulings on line calls (in the event the game is played without Linesmen, and the players involved disagree)
  • Determine if players are off-sides on the pull (in the event the game is played without Linesmen)
  • Resolve disputes on whether a caught disc was "up or down"
  • Announce the time cap (except in situations where the time cap is determined by the tournament director)
  • Provide game discs when required
  • Notes the name of any player displaying exceptionally good sportsmanship

The players on the field make all foul calls, with the exception of those listed above, however the Observer will rule in the case of a contested foul. In addition to the one Observer, it is strongly recommended that each game have two Linesmen to make active line calls and to assist the Observer on contested foul calls.

1.2 Line Calls

In games using Linesmen, the Linesmen will make all calls regarding whether a receiver is in or out of the playing field proper or end zones after catching the disc. Should an offensive player have perspective, and realize the Linesman has erroneously called a player in-bounds, or in the endzone, they are expected to overrule the call. Conversely, should a defensive player have perspective, and realize that the Linesmen has erroneously called the offensive player out of bounds, or out of the endzone, the defender is expected to overrule the call.

For games without Linesmen, the player with the best perspective (i.e. closest to the line in question and with a simultaneous view of the receiver and the playing field boundary) will determine whether the receiver was in or out of bounds. If the players involved cannot quickly make a call, only then is the Observer asked to make a call.

If the Linesmen or Observer can't determine whether a player is in-bounds, the call is made in favor of the defense.

1.3 Disc Up or Down

The Observer rules on whether a disc has been caught or is a "up or down" should there be a controversy between the players. The Observer makes this call only if the players disagree - this is not an active call. In the situation where an Observer is unable to make a call, the call is made in favor of the defense.

1.4 Warped Disc or Unable to Retrieve Disc

The Observer will carry or have ready access to, a spare disc that can be substituted for a game disc that has become warped or is difficult to retrieve (for example, in a crowd of spectators) in under 20 seconds (see 2.2). In either of these situations, the Observer will supply a new disc only if the team on offense requests one.

Should the Offense request a disc from the Observer, time required for the Observer to provide a spare disc does not count against the above time limits. Any initiated stall count will resume where it was halted when the request was made.

If an offensive player does not request a disc from the observer, an offensive player must retrieve the game disc from OB

1.5 Rule Review

At the beginning of each game, the Observer will read a brief summary of select rules to the players. This summary will begin with a reminder that ultimate is unique in that it holds players to a higher level of sportsmanship than other sports and that it is a player's responsibility to maintain composure during play. Additionally, players will be reminded that deliberate fouls are, by definition, bad sportsmanship and are subject to a Team Misconduct penalty. Players should also be reminded that dangerous play is to be avoided at all costs. Finally, players will listen to a brief review regarding specific rules:

  • Throwing before three ground contacts is not necessarily a travel
  • Loud swearing will result in a misconduct foul against a team and that a third (or more) misconduct foul results in a penalty against your team (see section 4.4)
  • That the line is out
  • Not to cross the line before the pull
  • That the Observer will make best efforts to do his or her job and that excessively arguing with the Observer can result in a misconduct foul
  • Other reminders as needed

1.6 Observers Are Treated As Neutral Players

In order to get the best possible view of any possible fouls, the Observer will typically be on the field of play. Should a thrown disc strike the Observer during play, the disc remains live until it touches the ground or an out of bounds obstacle.

An offensive player cannot call a pick, or blocking foul on the Observer. However, a defensive player can call a pick due to interference by the Observer.

1.7 Observer and Time Cap

If a tournament director is keeping track of a time cap for individual rounds, the time cap warning can be provided by the director, not the Observer.


2.0 Time Issues & Violations

In an effort to speed up the game, the Observer uses a stopwatch or hand counts to time various dead disc situations and makes sure play restarts in a reasonable time.

Whenever the disc must be put into play within a certain time limit using a check, failure by either team to meet the time limit supersedes the check, and allows the other team to immediately initiate play, as described in sections 2.2 and 2.3.

2.1 Time Before Pull

The receiving team must have 7 players on the line within 70 seconds. The pulling team then receives 20 seconds for final match-ups. The Observer will notify each team before they must be ready ("20 seconds", "10 seconds", "5 seconds", "Play"). Failure to have be set in the allotted time results in the following penalties:

  • Receiving team fails to have 7 players set on the line within 70 seconds: Receiving team puts the disc in play with a check at the "endzone" mark within 20 seconds
  • Pulling team fails to have 7 players set on the line and pull within 90 seconds: Receiving team puts the disc in play with a check at the "mid-field" mark within 20 seconds

See the Appendix for revised field layout with the following center-of-field markers: 15 yards in to each end zone (the "end zone" mark, 20 yards out from each endzone (the "brick mark") and at 35 yards from the endzone ("mid-field" mark).

Play can begin before the full 90 seconds has elapsed. After a minimum of 40 seconds has elapsed since the previous score, either team may give a signal (traditionally a raised hand) indicating that they are ready. If the receiving team gives the initial signal, the pulling team then has 20 seconds to match up and pull the disc. If the pulling team initially signals that it is ready to begin play the receiving team has 20 seconds to get 7 players on the line and indicate that they are ready. Following the ready signal from the receiving team, the pulling team then has an additional 20 seconds to match up and pull.

To avoid a delay penalty on the pull, a team that intends to play a point with fewer than 7 players must notify the Observer before the pull.

2.2 Time Between Turnovers

If the disc remains on the playing field proper after a turnover (not out of bounds and not in the endzone), the offense gets 10 seconds to put the disc in play. If the disc lands outside the playing field proper, or is dropped on the pull, the offense gets 20 seconds to put the disc in play. A disc that rolls or skips out of bounds, or into the endzone, is considered to have landed outside the playing field proper, and the offense gets up to 20 seconds to put it back in play.

The Observer will provide a warning at 5 seconds (and in the case of a disc that has gone out of bounds, 10 seconds) before the disc has to be put in play. Should the offense fail to begin play (by establishing a pivot foot) within the allotted time, the defense can begin the stall count.

However, if an offensive player is standing within two meters of the disc or if the thrower is in possession of the disc and standing near the location the disc will be put into play, the marker may issue a delay of game warning, initiate a stall count, and continue regardless of the offense's actions.

2.3 Time and Number of Time-outs

Each team gets 2 time-outs per half and each team is permitted exactly one (1) time-out in overtime (i.e. 14-14 in a game to 15) or after the time cap has gone into effect. Time-outs will be 70 seconds in length and the Observer will provide warnings ("20 seconds", "10 seconds", "5 seconds", "Play"). After 70 seconds, the offense must have established stationary positions. The defense then has 20 seconds to match up. Should the offense fail to set up within 70 seconds, the defense may begin the stall count. Should the defense fail to put the disc in play within 20 seconds after the offense is set, the observer will announce "play" and the offense can immediately put the disc into play.

Play can resume before the full 90 seconds has expired. If the team taking the time-out has established stationary positions and announces they are ready to resume play, the defense has 20 seconds to check the disc.

In the situation where an Observer (for example, in the situation of a Team Misconduct foul) has awarded a time-out to a team, the time-out is reduced from 70 seconds to 30 seconds.

2.4 Assessing Points for Late Arrival

Should one (or both) teams fail to have players on the line ready to begin play at the scheduled start time, the Observer will automatically assess a point for every 2 minutes of delay. The first point will be assessed 2 minutes after the scheduled start time.

2.5 Points Per Game

Under the Callahan Rules, all games will be played to 15 points, win by 2, with a hard cap at 17 points. There is a time cap at two hours and if the time cap is reached the hard cap is reduced to 2 points above the current high score, or 17 whichever is lower. If, at the discretion of the tournament director, games are capped before two hours, they are still played to 15 points.

2.6 Half-time

In games with a two-hour cap, each team is given 10 minutes for half time .If, at the discretion of the tournament director, games are capped before two hours, halftime is reduced to five minutes. The Observer will announce warnings with 20, 10 and 5 seconds remaining before the beginning of the second half. The offense must have 7 players on the line with 20 seconds remaining. The defensive team then receives 20 seconds for final match-ups. Failure to have 7 players on the line within the time limits results in the same penalties as in 2.1 Time Before Pull.

To give the Observer, Linesmen and spectators a brief break, the full time allotted to half-time must be taken, there are no short half-times

2.7 Time-out During the Pull

After a score, either team may take a time out at any point before the pull. However, the total time allowed before the pull is capped at 2 and a half minutes. After a time-out, the receiving team must have 7 on the line ready to receive the pull in no more than 2 minutes and 10 seconds, with the pulling team getting an additional 20 seconds to match up.

The team taking a time-out before the pull can still take an abbreviated time-out by indicating they are ready to resume play, giving the other team 20 seconds to get ready. This 20 second "get ready" time does not extend the cap maximum.

In the event that multiple time-outs are taken before a pull, the pull cap maximum of 2 and a half minutes is extended by 30 seconds for each additional time-out.

2.8 Observer Hand Signals

To assist in communicating to players the amount of time remaining (before a pull, near the end of halftime, time-outs, etc.) before play is to resume, Observers will both verbally announce the remaining time and use a series of hand signals. When indicating the time remaining, Observers can use a closed fist to indicate increments of 10 seconds and an open hand for 5 second increments.

For example, in the case of time before the pull, an Observer can raise a closed fist twice in rapid succession to indicate 20 seconds remaining before the pull. Once to indicate 20 seconds remain, etc.

It is up to the players on the field to keep track of the time before play is to resume. The Observer's hand signals are intended as a convenience for players and spectators - failure by the Observer to display a hand signal does not absolve a team from being assessed a penalty.


3.0 Contested Calls

3.1 Observer Decides Contested Calls

Should a discussion arise over a contested call, the Observer will ask if the players can resolve the dispute.  If the initial call and contest can't be quickly resolved by player agreement, the Observer has the following options:

  • Agree with the original call
  • Agree with the contest
  • If the situation warrants such a call, the observer can indicate the disc goes back to the thrower
  • Announce they didn't see the play and declare the disc goes back to the thrower

An Observer may, at his or her discretion, ask a Linesman's opinion on a call, or even let the Linesman make the call. However, this is on a case by case basis and is up to the Observer - the Observer is the controlling authority.

Upon resolution of the contested call, the Observer may elect to assess a Team Misconduct foul if they feel the initial foul was a deliberate violation of the rules, or if the player making the foul call or contest showed bad sportsmanship.


4.0 Misconduct Fouls

4.1 Game Misconduct Foul

At the end of a game the Observer will record on the score sheet the names of up to 3 players from each team named by the opposing captains as deserving of game misconduct fouls. Any players listed that the Observer also feels should be awarded a Game Misconduct foul will be ejected from the tournament.

In the case of a fight, this foul is automatic - the Observer must assess a Game Misconduct foul against the player they feel initiated the fight.

Observers and captains should reserve assessment of a Game Misconduct penalty to those players that initiate fights, repeatedly commit flagrant fouls (even after warnings), repeatedly are involved in dangerous play, swear at or otherwise repeatedly engage spectators in a negative fashion, etc. In short, this foul should be assessed only in the situation where, for the good of the sport, a player must be removed from play.

4.2 Team Misconduct

A Team Misconduct foul is assessed by the Observer during the game. The first two Team Misconduct fouls issued by the Observer are warnings ("Misconduct Warnings") and are noted on the score card by the Observer. Upon assessing a third (or more) Team Misconduct foul(s) the following penalties ("Misconduct Penalties") are enforced:

  • Misconduct Penalty assessed on defense: offense gets a free 30 second time-out and the disc at the "brick" mark closest to the endzone they are attempting to score in. If the offense has possession of the disc closer to the endzone than the "brick" mark, they receive a free 30 second time-out and the disc is placed at center-line at the point of possession.
  • Misconduct Penalty assessed on offense: offense keeps possession of the disc, but has to start at the "endzone" mark of the end zone they are defending. If the infraction occurs when the disc is deeper in the endzone than 15 yards, play restarts from the current location of the disc.

Under no circumstance can a team's field position be improved due to a Misconduct Penalty. Upon the calling of a Team Misconduct foul, play stops for 5 seconds while the player and team are warned and the Observer notes the infraction on a score card.

If a Team Misconduct Penalty is assessed after a score, but before the next pull, the penalty is assessed immediately - there is no pull. However, both teams are allowed to substitute players and the offensive team receives the same amount of time to set up as they would under section 2.1 Time Before Pull. This rule also applies to a Team Misconduct incurred during half-time, or before the game begins.

Two examples: (1) after a score, the offensive player taunts the defender and then spikes the disc at the defender's feet. If this results in a Team Misconduct Penalty (as opposed to a warning), there is no pull. After substitutions, the team now on offense gets the disc at the brick mark closest to the endzone they are attacking. They receive 70 seconds to line-up, with the defense receiving 20 seconds for final match ups. (2) a defender calls a "travel violation" on a throw that results in a score. If the call is contested and the Observer overrules the foul call and then assesses a Team Misconduct Penalty, there is no pull. Instead, after substitutions, the team now on offense automatically starts with the disc 15 yards deep in their own endzone.

Should both teams simultaneously receive misconduct penalties, the fouls offset and play continues after the offending players and teams receive warnings.

A Team Misconduct foul is to be assessed against a team for unsportsmanlike conduct by one of its players. Unsportsmanlike conduct includes actions such as deliberate fouls, dangerous play, taunting, fighting, swearing, repeated marking fouls, unwarranted and unsportsman-like fouls or contest calls, etc.

In the event of severe violations, the observer may at his discretion, eject a player for the remainder of the half or the remainder of the game when issuing any Team Misconduct Foul regardless of whether it results in a Warning or Penalty.

4.3 Automatic Ejection for Fighting

Should a player intentionally strike another player, the Observer must immediately eject that player from the game. If the other player retaliates, both players are ejected. At the end of the game, a Game Misconduct foul is automatically awarded by the Observer against the player he or she deems to be the aggressor in the altercation.

4.4 Swearing

At the discretion of the Observer, swearing, especially if directed at a player, coach, or spectator, can be assessed with a Team Misconduct foul.

4.5 Taunting

A player aggressively taunting another player (spiking the disc at an opponent's feet, etc.) will result in a Team Misconduct foul and will be treated in the same fashion as swearing.

4.6 Poor Sportsmanship

Should a player make bad foul calls or contests, or in some other manner not live up the high level of sportsmanship expected of Ultimate players, the Observer, may at his or her discretion, assess a Team Misconduct foul against the team of the player exhibiting poor sportsmanship.


5.0 The Pull

5.1 Offsides on the Pull

If an offense or defense player crosses the goal line on the pull before the disc has left the thrower's hand, that player's team is offsides. Each team receives one offsides warning each game with the warning resulting in a re-pull. Upon the second or more offsides call, the following penalties apply:

  • Penalty on the receiving team: receiving team starts with the disc at the spot 15 yards deep in the endzone within 20 seconds. The pulling team checks the disc in before play begins.
  • Penalty on the pulling team: receiving team starts with the disc at mid-field within 20 seconds. The pulling team checks the disc in before play begins.
  • Simultaneous penalties on both teams: re-pull.

The Linesmen actively make the offsides call. In games without Linesmen, the Observer makes the call. An offsides call cannot be contested. On any re-pull, the receiving team has 20 seconds to get set, with the pulling team receiving an additional 20 seconds to match up. With the exception of any injury, no substitutions can be made before a re-pull.

5.2 Starting play after the pull

The brick marks are located in the middle of the field, 20 yards from each endzone. If the pull is allowed to land (i.e. not caught) it is played as follows:

  • If the pull lands out-of-bounds, the receiving team has the option of putting the disc into play: - at the brick mark; or, - at the point on the playing field proper nearest where the disc went out-of-bounds; or, - halfway between the two sidelines at the point on the playing field proper nearest where the disc went out-of-bounds.
  • If the pull lands in-bounds, then rolls out-of-bounds, the disc is put into play at the point on the playing field proper nearest where the disc went out-of-bounds.
  • If the pull lands in-bounds and does not roll out-of-bounds, the disc must be put into play at the point where the disc comes to rest. (Note: existing rules allowing players to stop a rolling disc still apply.)

If the pull is caught, the disc must be put into play at the point on the playing field nearest where the disc was caught. Regardless of how the offense decides to handle a pull that ends up out-of-bounds they have a maximum of 20 seconds to establish a pivot foot and begin play.

5.3 Dropped Pull

A dropped pull is a change in possession with the pulling team (now the offense) starting with the disc at brick mark (the 20-yard line) nearest the endzone the offense is attacking. The pull does not have to be dropped in the endzone - a pull dropped outside of the endzone, but between the brick mark and the goal line, is brought out to the brick mark. A player from the team now on offense has 20 seconds to establish a pivot foot and put the disc back in play.

A pull that is dropped more than 20 yards outside the goal the receiving team is defending is played under the current 9th Edition rules.


6.0 Miscellaneous Changes and Additions

 6.1 Player Can Throw Before Third Ground Contact

Under current 9th Edition rules, it is ambiguous as to what happens should a player make three ground contacts but could have stopped earlier and established a pivot foot before throwing. Under the Callahan Rules, the rules governing traveling remain the same as the 9th Edition rules (three ground contacts, player must attempt to slow down, no change in direction), however, players will be reminded before the game that a receiver can throw the disc before the third ground contact.

A spurious traveling call made by a defender, that in the eyes of the Observer was made to stop a "give-and-go" run by the offense, is, by definition, bad sportsmanship and is subject to a Team Misconduct foul.

Under the Callahan Rules, a receiver / thrower can contest a travel, allowing an Observer to make a ruling.

6.2 Blocking Thrower's Line Of Sight

Deliberately blocking a thrower's eyes is a violation on the marker.

6.3 Equipment Time-Outs

Equipment time-outs aren't explicitly included in the 9th Edition Rules but are a convention adhered to by many players. Under the Callahan Rules, equipment time-outs will only be recognized for a dangerous condition (lost contact lens, broken glasses, etc.) or a damaged (or warped) disc. Two specific situations will no longer be recognized as valid reasons for an equipment time-out: untied shoes or mud on the disc.

6.4 Pass Intercepted in Defensive Endzone

A pass intercepted by the defense in the endzone they are attempting to score in (if they were on offense) is a score. To count as a score, a player’s first point of contact with the ground after intercepting the disc must be in the endzone.

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