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Today's Tidbit… 1876 IFA Rule #5: Goal
This is #5 in a series covering football’s original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
Rule 5: A goal may be obtained by kicking the ball from the field of play direct (i.e., without touching the ground or the dress or person of any player on either side) over the cross-bar of the opponents' goal. Whether it touch such cross-bar or the posts it is called a poster and is not a goal.
Rule 5 is straightforward: it tells us the kicked ball cannot hit anything during an attempt at goal until it sails over the crossbar. A kicked ball deflected by a player or their clothes does not count; neither does a kicked ball that strikes the ground, the crossbar, or the uprights.
Parts of Rule 5 did not last long. By 1883, kicks that hit the crossbar or uprights and bounced over the crossbar were considered good. Likewise, the rules of 1892 removed mention of the ball touching a player or their dress, so deflections off players that sailed true also resulted in a goal.
Left unsaid in the 1876 rules was what happened when kicks went wide or hit the ground. Of course, the kicking team did not score a goal on that kick. However, missed goal kicks were live balls so either team could recover the ball, much like in Canadian football today. One outcome of that rule was that teams began deliberately missing goal kicks after touchdowns in the hopes they could recover the ball and score a second touchdown. However, that tactic was deemed unworthy of the game, so missed goal kicks after touchdowns became a dead ball following an 1892 rule change.
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