This is #6 in a series covering football’s original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday, except today since we skipped last Friday.
Rule 6: A goal may be obtained by any type of kick except a punt.
You may recall that IFA Rule #5 told us that a goal comes by kicking the ball from the field and over the crossbar of the opponent's goal. However, Rule #5 failed to mention that punts sent over the crossbar do not count as a goal, so the rule makers made that point via Rule #6.
Unfortunately, the IFA rules fail to mention that a ball kicked during a kickoff also does not count as a goal if, by chance, it sailed over the crossbar. The omission was not a problem at the time because the team kicking off typically dribbled the ball or booted it a few inches before picking it up and running. As a result, kickoffs seldom got anywhere near the opponent's goal.
The kickoff process changed in 1892 when Harvard introduced the Flying Wedge, which saw the kicker's teammates create two lines, sprint forward as he kicked the ball, and form a running wedge around him as he picked up the ball. The danger presented by the Flying Wedge led to an 1894 rule requiring kickoffs to go at least ten yards before the kicking team could regain possession. They also added a provision to the rules that teams cannot score a goal on the kickoff.
For previous stories in the series, click Intro | Rules #1 Drop Kick | #2 Place Kick | #3 Punt | #4 Goal Posts | #5 Goal
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