To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The modified rules of football have now had their second season's test, and the result has been tremendously gratifying to all their adherents. Those who still maintain that the former game was the better find very little support, either from the players or the onlookers, and the criticism that is heard is so slight that it is distinctly negligible. It is quite remarkable that such is the case, and still more so that the Rules Committee should have been able to make such sweeping changes in the game with so few mistakes, and these only minor in effect. Naturally every one is not agreed upon details and modifications of certain rules, but the whole effect upon the game has been wonderfully good. The spirit of the game has been influenced greatly, and there is a marked improvement in the demeanor of the players on the field. The game now is one that takes so much skill and co-ordination that the good player has not time to think of circumventing the rules, but has to keep his mind and attention concentrated upon the possible combinations and plays of his opponents, and upon his own part in his own plays. There are only one or two games which force the player to think of as many things at once, to make up his mind as instantaneously, and to act as quickly on the conclusion he has drawn, as the game of football. This quality of co-ordination is more valuable now than ever, as the variety of attack of the opponents is so much wider.
For these reasons the present game is infinitely more interesting to the players, to the spectators, (who can now see the progress of the play so much better) and to the coaches, who have so much more scope for strategy. The principal changes in the rules that have brought about these benefits are the ten-yard rule, the limiting of number of men behind the line, the onside kick, and the forward pass.
The ten-yard rule is excellent to make the offense resort to the open plays; the limiting of the number of men behind the line has the same effect. Without the onside kick and forward pass, however, the first two changes would be useless, for the only open play then available would be the long kick or quarterback kick. As originator of the onside kick rule I may possibly be prejudiced; but it seems that it would be a grave mistake to go back to the rule allowing the back field men to let a ball bounce around on the ground and come to rest before they need to touch it. Moreover, it gives the line men something to do besides tackling and opening holes, and has a strong moral effect on the defense. The forward pass I also think is necessary to the game in some form, although it should be modified in some way. Mr. Dalv and myself advocated limitation in last year's conference, to eliminate the wild scramble for the ball on the high passes, but without success. This year the movement seems to have gained some ground, and from an article in the Yale News I should judge that Mr. Camp has come around to that opinion, which would seem to presage some change.
There are two ways which might be adopted to limit the forward pass, either of which would be beneficial. The first method would be to limit the men who could receive the pass to the quarterback, halfbacks, and fullback, and eliminate the five-yard boundary on each side of centre, which is not only a constant annoyance to the officials, but makes a decision only an arbitrary expression of opinion, and not of fact. It might be well to allow two passes in each play, the same four men only being eligible to receive it. This would open up the play still more, but still make the passes individual, and a matter of personal skill in position, passing, and catching; also, by adding to the possibilities of the offense, would thereby keep the defense open in order to cover individual players who might possibly receive the pass.
The second method which might be adopted is to allow the defense to make a fair catch just as in the case of a kicked ball, and to punish interference with the opportunity for a fair catch in the same way. This would eliminate all slow high passes, but would not affect the low quick ones, which are the ones to encourage as being those which take skill and head-work.
Possibly both these methods might be combined with good results, and the elimination of the five-yard boundary would be especially good, as any simplification of the work of the officials is to be commended. The one objection to the rules as they now stand is that the official's attention is so taken up by looking for geometrical violation of the rules that it cannot be placed so thoroughly on the more important points of conduct and play.