Jamestown Evening Journal

Parke H. Davis Discusses Changes In Football Rules

Parke H. Davis of Easton, Pa., formerly of Jamestown the strategist of the Princeton football board and the representative of that university on the intercollegiate rules committee, contributes a forecast of the 1910 game of football to the Philadelphia Public Ledger. He traces the history of this form of sport, from the time of the Spartans down to the present and explains in detail the changes in the playing rules made by the intercollegiate rules committee.

"Statisticians of the gridiron contend that football is no more dangerous than baseball," says Mr. Davis, "and they point to the fact that the fatalities upon the diamond during three weeks of last April equaled the record of football last autumn for 10 weeks, while for minor injuries the record of baseball is as high as 26 to 1. Not withstanding any such comparison, the rules committee of football resolutely determined to reach and eradicate the dangers of its own game. This task the committee has performed, instituting a reform the most drastic which football has yet encountered. In this revision the committee did not work upon theory. It had before it precise and accurate data as to the cause of the injuries that marked the season of 1909. This data indicated as the offending features mass plays, interlocked interference, flying tackles and the recovery of the forward passes.

"The mass play has been the subject of periodical reform since the upheaval of 1895 in which the flying plays of Harvard were outlawed, but in each one of these reforms the central idea has been to preserve the principle of the mass play, but to so prune it as to eliminate its dangers. All of these reforms failed to accomplish that object, as the inventive genius of the coaches were enabled to evolve formations of tremendous power even under the limitations placed upon them This spring, however, the rules committee has abolished the mass play and torn out its roots. This reform has been accomplished technically as follows: 'When the ball is put in a play by a scrimmage at least seven players of the side holding the ball shall be on the line of scrimmage. No player of the side in possession of the ball shall use his hands, arms or body to push, pull or hold upon his feet the player carrying the ball nor shall there be any interlocked interference. By interlocked interference is meant the grasping of one another or by encircling the body to any degree with the hands or arms, by the players of the side in possession of the ball.

"This, the most drastic change football has encountered in 25 years, means a return to the game that was played up to the middle ‘80s, but it will be the same with the addition of modern interference. With aid to the runner forbidden, the interferers will be sent in advance of the runner with one man following possibly to receive a pass when the runner is tackled. Experiments conducted between the first and second sessions of the committee indicated that this amendment had weakened by more than 50 per cent the offensive strength of the game. To restore the equilibrium and at the same time to prevent the dangers of the flying tackle the latter play was deleted from the game by the following new rule: 'A player when tackling an opponent must have at least one foot on the ground.' With the flying tackle thus forbidden, a premium is placed upon the fleet footed runner by making it now possible to run around a tackler who no longer dares to leap for his man. This feature, together with the prohibition of mass play, would indicate the return of the widely extended rush line, in which the rushers are so widely separated that a dash through the line is no different than a run around the end.

"Numerous changes offensively will produce corresponding changes defensively. The most important of these will be the passing of the player of gigantic bulk and the coming of the fleet footed man of middle weight. Big men were necessary solely to execute and stop mass plays. With the mass play outlawed, the football giant is without an occupation. Indirectly this means the equalization of the small college with the large, since it has been the rarity of football giants that has handicapped the institutions of minor enrollments. With the mass play no longer threatening a rush line it is possible that only six men will be required to defend it, and that the seventh man may be transferred to the backfield.

"An incidental change in the game probably will occur in the present method of snapping the ball which has been in vogue 25 years. With the quarterback gone, the ball must be sent directly to the backs. The present rule defining the snapping of the ball as putting the ball in play with one continuous motion of the hand or foot offers a wide latitude for the coaching genius of the country to effect an improvement.

"Now that this final reform in the long line of revisions has been effected, may we expect an injury less game?'' No for no game involving personal contact and played with the vim which characterizes the contests of the youth of this country, who are imbued with the American spirit to excel and to win, can exist without accidents. But it may be asserted fairly and reasonably that the injuries of football will not exceed and possibly may not equal the mishaps of baseball, lacrosse and hockey.”

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.