• U.S.

Sport: Sig-nuls!

2 minute read

As most tenth-reunion grads and their elders will readily agree, football has not been the same since the general adoption of the huddle system 15 years or so ago. Not only has the game been slowed down from a pre-huddle average of about 150 plays to as few as 90, but nothing has ever replaced the exhilarating chatter of a bossy, spark-plug quarterback, barking “Sig-nuls!” in the crisp autumn air.

Last week, old-style rooters took hope. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, repairing U. S. football rules for 1940. cut the time allowed between plays from 30 seconds to 25. Ostensible reason: to speed up play.

The huddle system was made necessary by the development of big, rackety stadiums, which drowned out the quarterback’s voice. Time was when a team snapping out of the huddle could expect to find the defense dug in, pretty much as they last faced it. But lately the defense has been huddling too, then deploying into unpredictable formations.

Even with a 30-second leeway, re-huddling the tonnage of a modern football team to face these defensive shifts sometimes earns more penalties than first downs. Consequently many teams in recent seasons have reverted to old-fashioned signal calling. The new 25-second rule, in the opinion of some strategists, will eventually put huddling on the shelf with turtleneck sweaters and the onside kick.

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