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Today's Tidbit... 1876 IFA Rule #56: Charging Locations
This is #56 in a series covering football's original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
The last two rules addressed when the opposing team could charge the kicker following a fair catch, while Rule 56 addressed where the opposing team could position itself before charging.
Once again, the rule-makers of 1876 must have believed they could save money by minimizing the number of punctuation marks per rule since Rule 56 has 113 words but only one semi-colon, three commas, and two periods. The first sentence weighs in a substantial 83 words.
Rule 56: In case of a fair catch the opposite side may come up to and charge from anywhere on or behind the line drawn through the mark made by the player who has made the catch and parallel to their own goal-line; but in the case of a fair catch from punt-out or punt-on, they may not advance further in the direction of the touch-line nearest to such mark than a line drawn through such mark to their goal-line and parallel to such touch-line. In all cases, except a punt-out and a punt-on, the kicker's side must be behind the ball when it is kicked, but may not charge until it has been kicked.
The first 41-word phrase concerns fair catches and tells us the opposite side had to remain behind or closer to their goal line than the restraining line, running parallel to the goal line and through the heel mark made by the fair catcher.
The second phrase covers the opposing team's positioning on puntouts and punt-ons. For these, the restraining line ran perpendicular to the goal line, and through the spot the runner crossed the goal line. The image below shows Chicago preparing to puntout versus Illinois in 1907. The Illinois player standing closest to the punter is likely positioned just inside the restraining line, and since the play is a puntout, they are also restrained behind the goal line.
The second sentence tells us that the free kicker's teammates had to remain on their side of the restraining line until their teammate kicked the ball. They still have to stay behind the restraining line today, but since a missed free kick is no longer recoverable by the kicking team, there is no reason to charge downfield following the kick.
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 | #51 No Fair Catch OOB | #52 TD Interference | #53 Missed Kicks | #54 Charging | #55 Charge At Once
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