When the football Rules Committee meets next month to formulate the regulations for next year it may very well consider the presence of coaches on the side-lines as a subject requiring legislation. The present rules forbid coaching from the side-lines, and the obvious intention is that when a team is once on the field it shall play its own game, depending on its own initiative for the solving of an opponent's attack and for the successful use of its own plays.
It cannot be denied that the spirit of this rule is almost never complied with in football games, though the audible coaching of players is a rare occurrence. When every substitute who is sent into a game bears a message to the team, and when, as sometimes is the case, the only reason for a change of players is the opportunity for giving instructions to the quarterback, there is a very evident departure from the intent of the rule. Frequently, too, instructions are given as in baseball by the position of a coach or player on the bench. Given two teams of equal strength and equal equipment in the way of plays, and the modern football game thus becomes a contest of brains between two football strategists, in which the players are like the pieces in a chess game.
In crew races and in track meets we have come nearer to the true amateur spirit in this particular by depriving coaches of the right to be near their men in competition. In football and baseball the professional aspect stands out more strongly in this instance than in any other one thing. Professional coaching by the best men available is an acknowledged necessity for success in present-day sports, nor is it at all incompatible with the spirit of amateur competition. But let the coaching be confined to its proper time and place, and when a team is once started in a game let it win or lose on its own merits.
In what we have said on this subject we do not wish to be understood as in any degree attacking specific teams or coaches. If Harvard coaches instruct their men from the side-lines they are merely taking advantage of an opportunity which is open equally to all coaches. Every team that played on Soldiers Field this fall was instructed in the same way. The practice is one which is generally followed, but which ought to be abolished for the good of the sport.