THE author ca not resist the temptation of allowing the observer to solve this mystery alone, however, to assist the uninitiated, the plate depicts the offense in the act of executing a forward pass from left to right.
The ball has been thrown by the player on the extreme left of the picture. The pass was completed and gained fourteen yards. Twenty-two players are shown and the ball is in plain sight.
Where is the ball? Which player will catch it, and who of the defense will tackle the runner? One further question: Find an empty seat in the grandstand.
Harvard vs. Penn. State 1921.
The drop-kick taken in conjunction with the beautiful forward passes or rushes which ensue from a threatened kick are today an integral part of every well-devised offense.
How well the rule makers did their work in 1912 may be better appreciated by the statement that with minor exceptions no changes have been necessary since that time. The mere fact that the principal rules have remained unchanged has had an enormous effect, not only in popularizing, but also in standardizing the game. Whereas a dozen years ago the large stadia at Harvard and elsewhere were filled only on the occasions of championship games, it is a question now how to accommodate the enormous crowds which swarm to their fields on each succeeding Saturday. The increase in popularity of the game is due to two causes.
First, the small colleges, or these which heretofore had not been prominent in football, in many cases have obtained the services of a competent coach, so versed in the proper principles and methods of play as to develop a team as good, and better than many of the so-called leading colleges. Thus, the mid-season games between large and small colleges often develop into close contests which not infrequently end with the defeat of the larger college. The old days, when it was a disgrace to be scored upon, or even to lose a game, are gone. Accordingly, the very evenness of the contest is pleasing to the spectators.
Second, by far the most popular feature of today's game is the frequency and increased skill in the use of the forward pass. So potent a factor is it that already protests are heard that it should be curbed in some degree. Yet, from the spectator's point of view, its use has opened the game enormously. People can really see what is going on, and because of its long gaining qualities, it adds greatly to the excitement.
The standardization of the game has given coaches throughout the country time to distinguish between sound and unsound methods of play, the result being that very little bad strategy is consistently pursued at any of the colleges. The good coaches are content to perfect the known qualities of offense and defense, rather than attempt to "upset the apple-cart" by some untried method of attack.
The most radical departure from the beaten path occurred during 1914, at Yale, when an adaptation of the Canadian or Rugby principle of the lateral pass was introduced. Until the final game was played, this system of attack swept the defense off their feet, but Harvard devised a defense wherein only four men were stationed on the line of scrimmage, the other seven being so placed as to cope not only with the lateral but forward passes which had baffled Yale's other opponents. In spite of suffering a 36-0 defeat, Yale on two occasions had the ball within Harvard's five-yard line, proving the un-usual ground-gaining qualities of this scheme of attack.
Contributory to a better calibre of play is the fact that, allowing for three years of school experience, there have been three football generations, all playing under the same set of rules, the result being that the incoming varsity players have far better groundwork and higher technique than ever before. Furthermore, the present game calls for a far more athletic type of player than in the old days, because the back-field and the ends must be adept in handling forward passes, and the other linemen are called upon to cover more territory than heretofore. Hence, the two-hundred pound fat boy is fast disappearing, and in his place appear strong, versatile athletes who must of all things be possessed with that quality best described as ability to handle themselves with dexterity and even grace.
Coincident with the increase in skill of coach and player, there has developed a competent corps of officials who have also greatly benefited by the continuance of the same rules. No one factor has done more for the game than these fearless, fair-minded officials. They have imposed law and order upon the game, not only by virtue of their thorough knowledge of the rules, but also by their dominant personality on the field of play.
From a scholastic view-point, a great majority of colleges bar from varsity athletics those students who are on probation, or delinquent in any of their duties toward the college office. Closely allied to this rule is the one year resident rule, which bars not only freshmen, but those who have transferred from other colleges. These rules should be adopted by all institutions of learning. Certain universities also debar those students who are enrolled in any of the so-called graduate departments, leaving eligible for varsity teams only sophomores, juniors, and seniors of the Academic Department. Many people are deceived by the total enrollment of a college, as to the number of men who are actually eligible to represent it in athletics. Thus, Harvard with over 5000 students has between fifteen and sixteen hundred eligible for varsity teams. Yale, with less total enrollment, has about the same number, while Princeton, with a much smaller body, has between thirteen and fourteen hundred students from which to choose. On the other hand, Cornell has over four thousand students eligible for varsity teams, and some of the western colleges even a greater number.
Although there is no universal code of eligibility rules for all and a consequent inequality of standards between various colleges, yet there is a marked improvement in the ethical code of athletics in all colleges and schools throughout the country. On the whole, then, although there is still a tendency at certain institutions of learning to capitalize football for commercial and publicity purposes, yet politically, ethically and athletically, the game is at present conducted upon sane and sound principles, destined to be maintained for many years to come.