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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #50: Heel-In Mark
This is #50 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
As you likely have noticed, some of the original IFA rules suffer from an exceedingly convoluted writing style that goes beyond differences in word usage and phrasing across 150+ years. Rule 50 counts among the worst offenders in that regard. It takes several readings to understand the rule's intent, and remains unclear even then.
The funny thing about Rule 50 is that it is unchanged from the Rugby Union rules. That means that upper-class Brits wrote it and were supposed to be familiar with the King's English, but it reads like more than a few skipped their classes that day.
Rule 50: If a fair catch be made from a punt-out or punt-on, the catcher may proceed either as provided by Rules 43 or 44, or he himself take a punt-on, in which case the mark made in making the fair catch shall be regarded (for the purpose of determining as well the position of the player who makes the punt-on as of the other players of both sides) as the mark made on the goal-line in the case of a punt-out.
As best as I can tell, the rule tells us that when a player makes a fair catch from a puntout or punt-on, and heels in to make his mark, the next following play starts from the spot of his mark. That is the case whether the next play is a dropkick, placekick, punt, or they place the ball for a scrummage (in the case of a punt-on).
I don't have much more to say about this topic, but I am happy to announce that Football Archaeology was named one of Substack's feature publications in September.
The recommendation and the start of football season have resulted in many new free subscribers, who I assume have never seen an image of teams lining up for a puntout. So, despite puntouts being a frequent part of pre-1920 football, the images below are the only photographs I have found of teams preparing to punt out during a game. I'm sure there are more out there, so let me know if you find one.
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 | #41 Kickout | #42 Kickout Procedure | #43 Fair Catch Free Kick | #44 Free Kick Location | #45 Own Goal Touch Down | #46 Try At Goal | #47 Try At Goal Spot | #48 Touched Down Between Posts | #49 Puntout Spot
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