Football rules change over time

Published 1:26 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It is sometimes funny to see how over the years high school, college and professional football rules have changed to match the natural changes in the game.

The biggest example is the relaxing of holding rules from strict enforcement of no use of the blocker’s hands to now, when the completely liberal use of the hands is allowed.

Offensive holding is now called only when the blocker completes a takedown of the defensive player. The change was brought about by the popularity of the passing game.

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Another less noticed change involves uniforms. Until fairly recently, players were required to follow the rule requiring pads covering the knee, and pants that covered the pads.

NCAA College Football Rules Book, Rule 1, Section 4, Article 4 (a) says, a player shall wear “Soft knee pads at least 1/2 inch thick that must cover the knee and be covered by pants. No pads or protective equipment shall be worn outside of the pants. Players of a team shall wear pants of the same color and design.”

It is easy to notice that the rule is seldom, if ever, enforced. Skill position players, including kickers, are moving closer and closer to wearing shorts.

Just a few short years ago, Bobby Gaston, when supervisor of officials for the SEC, annually put much emphasis on the proper enforcement of that rule.

It seems the celebration rule has cost a team or two badly this season. I do not agree with those writers who argue that the rule was “Made by old white men to punish young black players.”

Never in the history of football has a player, by himself, made a touchdown, caught a pass, made a sack or done anything else on the field without his teammates.

Football is the ultimate team sport. Nothing, to me, is more disgusting than watching a player, with his team trailing badly, pound his chest after a run, catch or tackle. The lack of team effort may be partly to blame for that team’s lack of success.

Congratulations to Allen Brown for his election to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. The honor is very well-deserved but late coming.

I remember when Brown played on the strong Natchez High School teams with Perry Lee Dunn and Mike Morgan, both of whom went on to good college and short professional careers.

Several others from that team played major college football. Allen played on Vince Lombardi’s first two Super Bowl teams at Green Bay before his career was cut short by injury. Allen and his wife Margaret’s sons, Timmy and Burkes, played at Ole Miss for coach Billy Brewer.

In 1949, shortly before moving to Natchez, I had graduated from Baylor School in Chattanooga. A couple of weeks ago, we went to Chattanooga to attend my 60th class reunion at Baylor.

Before returning home, we spent two days with a childhood friend in Knoxville, Hal Ernest. He gave us a tour through the University of Tennessee’s Audio-Visual facility, from which three people operate the giant jumbotron at Neyland Stadium. It was very interesting to view things from inside the system.

I see that Major League Baseball is considering following football into the age of instant replay.

It won’t be long before someone invents a device to determine balls and strikes, and that might put umpires out of business. Sad, but they say you can’t stop progress.

And, that’s official.

Al Graning writes a monthly column for The Democrat. Contact him at