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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #41: Kickout
This is #41 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
In 1876, neither football nor rugby differentiated touchbacks from safeties. In fact, neither term was mentioned in the IFA’s 1876 rules since the game(s) only had the kickout:
Rule 41: Kick-out is a drop kick by one of the players of the side which has had to touch the ball down in their own goal, or into whose touch in goal the ball has gone (Rule 21), and is the mode of bringing the ball again into play, and cannot count as a goal.
So, if a player touched the ball down behind his own goal line or if the ball entered either of a team’s touch in goal areas, they performed a kickout. Without giving away too much information about Rule 42, which we will cover next week, the team that touched the ball down moved to their 25-yard line and drop-kicked the ball to the other team.
The failure to distinguish safeties and touchbacks, combined with no limits on the number of downs, resulted in the Princeton-Yale “block games” of 1880 and 1881. In short, Princeton was satisfied with tying those games since they won the IFA pennant in 1879, and teams retained the IFA championship until another team beat them. As a result, they stalled for much of the games, taking losses as needed until they had to touch the ball down behind the goal line, at which point, they kicked out from the 25-yard line.
The rules of 1882 gave teams four downs to gain five yards and distinguished “safety touchdowns” or safeties from touchbacks. Safeties had some value in the equivalency-based scoring system of 1882 and were valued at one point (like a rouge) with the adoption of points-based scoring in 1883. Safeties became valued at two points in 1884.
It was not until 1898 that the rule-maker distinguished safeties and touchbacks based on which team provided the impetus for the ball to go behind the goal line. Dissatisfaction with the touchback rule led to a 1909 rule giving the team taking a touchback the option to kickout or put the ball in play from scrimmage. Since nearly everyone chose the latter option, the rules committee eliminated the choice in 1914, so the team taking the touchback automatically put the ball in play from scrimmage.
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 | #40 Loser Kicks
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