This is #26 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 several rules covered onside and offside, with the core issue being that offside players, those closer to the opponent's goal line than a teammate in possession of the ball, could not participate in the play. The application of the offside rule changed when football allowed blocking in the 1880s, but the rule was in place in 1876.
On the other hand, Rule 26 is the first of the original rules to tell us how to toss the ball to a teammate legally. As it turns out, only teammates who were onside, that is, behind the ball, could receive a legal pass.
Rule 26: Throwing back. It is lawful for any player who has the ball to throw it backward toward his own goal, or to pass it back to any player of his side who is at the time behind him, in accordance with the rules of on side.
Unfortunately, there is little more to say about this rule that is not better suited for the next week's coverage of Rule 27, which concerns throwing the ball forward. For now, it is enough to say that passing the ball backward was the only legal method of transferring it to a teammate in 1976, other than certain situations in which teammates could gain possession of a punted or kicked ball.
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
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