APBA Football Innovations – Measurement

OK – a lot of the enhancements I have added to the Football Game are pretty advanced, but this is a simple one . . . but, it is also an innovation that initially did not work at all!

Back in the early 1980’s, when I ran a face-to-face football league in Tampa, I introduced the idea of a measurement thinking it would add an element of suspense to the games.  So, we put this rule in place that said that, if the result of the play took you exactly to the first down marker, you would roll one die – odd: you made the first down, even: you were inches short.

Well, the rule was a disaster!  And that’s because it went against one of my foundational guidelines – and that is this – an innovation needs to be fair to both the offense and the defense.  And this rule ONLY benefited the defense!  Because, if you got the necessary yardage to record a first down, you could be penalized, but not the defense . . . they could only benefit on 50% of the rolls!  So, the other coaches in my league voted the rule out!!

Then, ironically, I got hired to be the head statistician for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in my very first game (thankfully, it was a pre-season game), I made a pretty big mistake.  On a 1st & 10 play, Doug Williams hit Jimmy Giles on a pass and he was tackled right near the first down marker.  A measurement showed that he was about an inch short.  Well, I’m doing the math and I think . . . 9.972 yards?  I’ll just round up and give him 10 yards.  Certainly seemed to make sense to me.

Then, on the next play, James Wilder carried the ball and got stopped right at the line.  Only, a subsequent measurement showed that he had actually made the first down by about 2 inches.  So, again, I’m looking at a 3-inch gain – which I recorded as a 0 yard gain.  Again, that seemed to make sense to me.

Well, when the game ended I got a pretty good tongue-lashing by Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau.  They were the organization hired by the NFL to be the league’s official statistical record keepers.  He informed me that you cannot get a first down on a ZERO yard carry.  Likewise, when there are ten yards to go for a first down, even if you’re only an inch short, you cannot get credit for a 10-yard gain.  So, the correct scoring for those two plays was a 9-yard pass to Giles and a 1-yard run for Wilder.  Suffice it to say that I never made that mistake again.

But, it got me thinking about APBA Football and my ill-fated attempt to add the “measurement” to the game.  And, like a light-bulb going off, I realized that it was a pretty easy fix.  Whenever you land either exactly on the first down (or touchdown) or whenever you land one yard shy of the first down (or touchdown), you have a measurement.  Roll the one die – odd: you make it – even: you don’t!

Under this rule it is now fair for both the offense and the defense, and it makes for some very interesting and pretty suspenseful drama during a game – especially when it comes to goal line stands!  I use it, and I love it!

So, this is just a little, very subtle tweak to the game, but I think you might have some fun with it!

Ray Dunlap

2 thoughts on “APBA Football Innovations – Measurement

  1. Ray, we play that the defense has the option to challenge when it’s an exact FD. You’d need to roll a double for the call to be short. So the defense has to balance that against losing a timeout. Works well.


  2. Phil:
    I think that is a great take on the rule and works really well in a face-to-face situation. My concept is an easy innovation for the solo player . . . . but, when coaching against another person, I really like any enhancement that more closely mimics the NFL – especially when APBA really doesn’t address the whole “option to challenge” concept. I really like it!

Leave a Reply