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Today’s Tidbit… 1876 IFA Rule #21: Touch-in Goal
This is #21 in a series covering football’s original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
“Touch-in goal” constitutes the four areas on football fields behind the goal line and beyond the sideline. They remain a part of rugby fields today but stopped having meaning for American football fields when the rule makers eliminated the puntout in 1920.
Rule 21 tells us what happens when the ball goes into touch in goal:
Rule 21: Touch-in-goal. Immediately the ball, whether in the hands of a player (except for the purpose of a punt-out – see Rule 29) or not, goes into touch in goal, it is at once dead and out of the game, and must be brought out by Rules 41 and 42.
So, the rule tells us the ball is dead when in a player's hands while in touch-in goal, except when the player is executing a puntout, which is covered briefly below.
Several elements of the early game contributed to touch-in goal having a special meaning in rugby and early football. One is that a ball going into touch (aka out of bounds) was not dead until a player touched it down while out of bounds. That rule led to great chases and battles among players trying to reach and touch the ball down. Sometimes, when the ball went out of bounds, it also went beyond the goal line. Those situations required procedures to bring the ball back into play. For now, it is enough to understand that if a player recovered the ball twenty yards out of bounds and beyond the goal line, they could bring the ball back to the near corner of the touch-in goal area to put the ball back into play under Rules 41 and 42.
Second, punts and missed field goals were recoverable by both teams at various points in the game's history, and it was not unusual for kicked balls to land in touch in goal. Third, the puntout, which we will cover under Rule 29, was a core part of the "goal after touchdown" process in the early days. Touch-in goal came into play when a player scored a touchdown close to a sideline.
Hopefully, that satisfies some of your curiosity about the touch-in goal area for now. However, those needing to read ahead can learn about puntouts here. The article’s content will be similar to that covered in Rule 29.
For previous stories in the series, click the link for each rule: Intro | #1 Drop Kick | #2 Place Kick | #3 Punt | #4 Goal Posts | #5 Goal | #6 Goal ≠ Punt | #7: Scoring | #8: Dead Ball | #9: Touchdown | #10: Tackle | #11: Scrimmage | #12: Ball Handling | #13 Dead Ball | #14: Scrimmage Ball Handling | #15 Run In | #16: Goal Line | #17: Boundary Lines | #18: Crying “Down” | #19: Maul In | #20: Maul-In Pax
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