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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #40: Loser Kicks
This is #40 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
Previously, we covered several aspects of the kickoff as a part of Rule 36. Specifically, the kickoff occurs from midfield, and the opposing team must stand at least ten yards back from the spot of the kick. We did not address who does the kicking. Rule 39 tells us the teams tossed up to determine who kicked to start the game, while Rule 40 tells us the team scored on kicked off.
Rule 40: Whenever a goal has been obtained the side which lost the goal shall then kick off.
Some of you may recall that I jumped the gun when reviewing Rule 37 since I wrote the following that is more pertinent to Rule 40:
Another oddity of the early rules was that the team that had been scored on kicked off. However, since the kicking team commonly dribbled the ball a few inches before picking it up, the kicking team gained possession of the ball. This led to the development of the flying wedge in 1892, which was eliminated in 1894 by requiring kickoffs to travel at least ten yards. That rule change led kicking teams to kick the ball deep, hoping to obtain a field position advantage. The strategy worked when evenly matched teams played one another but resulted in dominant teams retaining possession for much of the game. In 1898, the Western Conference gave the team that was scored on the choice to kick or receive. The NCAA adopted the same rule in 1903. Teams almost always chose to receive the ball, so fans seldom knew the option existed. Still, referees asked team captains whether they wanted to kick or receive after being scored on until 2003, when they eliminated the choice.
Since I already covered the story of Rule 40 and don't have more to say on the matter, let’s turn to the Harvard-Yale game played on November 18, 1876, five days before the IFA rules meeting, which put all these rules in place. In 1892, Walter Camp recalled playing in the game as a freshman and noted that the Yale players were as confused by the English rugby rules of 1876 as some of us are reading them today. Harvard played a few games with McGill teams that knew the rules, but Yale had not.
I remember the days before the match which we spent in practice with a round rubber ball, and the evenings which several of us spent in wondering how near we were to the proper methods of play, for the whole science of the sports was to us a sealed book.
We guessed our way into most points and trusted in Providence or inspiration for the rest.
Camp, Walter, 'First Harvard-Yale Rugby Game,' Boston Globe, November 6, 1892.
Camp’s recollection of the game was that Harvard was better at team play, including passing the ball, while Yale was tougher and dominated line play. During the second half, a Yale player kicked a ball as it bounded on the ground on a designed play and watched it sail over the crossbar for a goal. Harvard, of course, had to kick off after Yale scored their goal, just as Rule 40 tells us.
Meanwhile, Harvard earned two touchdowns but missed both goal kicks, leaving them scoreless and Yale the victors.
Click the appropriate link for previous stories in the series:
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 | #21 Touch-in Goal | #22 Onside | #23 Offside | #24 Return to Onside | #25 Defensive Offside | #26 Throwing Back | #27 Knocking On | #28 Fair Catch | #29 Punt-out | #30 Punt-On | #31 Into Touch | #32 Inbounding | #33 Pushed Into Touch | #34 Right Angle Throw Out | #35 No Fair Catch | #36 Kickoff | #37 Kickoff Timing | #38 Change Goals | #39 Toss Up
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