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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #51: No Fair Catch OOB
This is #51 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
Rule 51 is the last of the 61 original rules with little relationship to today's rules. Rules 52 to 61, which we will review in the coming weeks, were eliminated or modified since 1876, but each contains a threat linking us to an element of football as played in 2023. Rule 51 has the slimmest such thread and also sucks because its main job is to modify earlier rules we've already covered. So, here it is:
Rule 51: A catch made in touch from a punt-out or a punt-on is not a fair catch; the ball must be then taken or thrown out of touch as provided by Rule 32. But if the catch be made in touch in goal the ball is at once dead and must be kicked out as provided in Rules 41 and 42.
The first sentence tells us that a ball caught out of bounds from a puntout or punt-on cannot be fair caught. Instead, it was only a ball recovered out of bounds to be brought inbounds following the procedures laid out in Rule 32, which allowed the player to:
Run it onto the field.
Throw the ball to an onside teammate.
Execute a fair (aka line-out).
Execute an uncontested punt.
Walk the ball five to fifteen yards onto the field and place the ball down to begin play.
The fifth option resembles today's procedure of bringing the ball to the inbound line after it goes out of bounds. Still, that thread connects directly to Rule 32 and only indirectly to Rule 51.
The second sentence tells us a ball caught in the "touch in goal" area, which is out of bounds and behind the goal line, should be kicked out per Rules 41 and 42. The kickout procedure later separated into the safety and touchback, and both involved kicking the ball for a few decades, but only the kick following the safety remains today. Like the first sentence, that connection with today's game flows directly through Rules 41 and 42 and only indirectly through Rule 51.
All in all, covering Rule 51 was a bit of a waste of time. However, it only took you a minute or two to read this, while it took me an hour to write this Tidbit, find an image, and format it for you to read, so consider yourself lucky.
It will get better again next week.
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 | #50 Heel-In Mark
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