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Today's Tidbit... The Trailing Team's Choice To Kick Or Receive
We have been on a recent kick looking at the rules affecting which team boots the ball to start the game or second half, and today we get to review another oddball kicking rule. A story from a few days ago described the NCAA rule that gave the team scored upon the option to kick or receive, which remained in effect until 2003.
Another story variation began in 1934 when the Pacific Coast Conference voted in favor of a rule giving the trailing team the option to kick or receive. The PCC representative to upcoming rules meeting presumably submitted the idea to the committee, but the idea went way until 1946 when Fordham and Georgetown agreed in the spring to play their game under this rule. (They also decided to play 4-minute quarters with the clock running only during active play.)
Unfortunately, both schools had dropped football from 1943 to 1945, so the early October game would be Fordham's first post-war football game and Georgetown's second since they lost to Wake Forest the previous week. Given the situation, the teams decided the game was too important to test these rules, so they played under standard rules, with Georgetown winning 8-7, and the trailer's choice rule would not have made little or no difference.
However, the trailer's choice did not die there, rearing its ugly head in 1957 when they adopted it for the 1957 North-South game in Miami. The Senior and Hula Bowls and, perhaps, other all-star games later used it to promote tight scores in those games.
Others justified the trailer's choice by arguing that it prevented teams leading late in games from "freezing" or stalling by running to the ball to keep the clock running. The NFL rules committee considered the trailer's option in 1959 and the NCAA in 1965, but neither adopted it, so it remained an all-star-only feature in the U.S.
Interestingly, the stalling issue is reduced under CFL rules since the clock stops when the ball becomes dead during the last 3 minutes of each half. When plays end in bounds, the clock restarts only when the referee spots the ball and whistles in the play. In addition, the CFL requires games to end with an unpenalized play from scrimmage, so even if the game clock runs out, teams can still run a play if time remains on the play clock.
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