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AAFC Substitution Rules

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:44 pm
by TodMaher
Does anyone know what substitution rules the AAAFC used?
I ask this because of players like Phil Martinovich who was apparently used only as a kicker - thus raising the question did the AAFC have unlimited substitution during it existence?

Re: AAFC Substitution Rules

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 4:38 pm
by RichardBak
I'm not exactly sure what the rules were for the AAFC's inaugural season (1946). I do know that from 1947 through 1949 the AAFC permitted only one player from each team to enter the game while the clock was running. Any substitutions numbering 2 or more players while the clock was running resulted in the team being charged with a timeout. If the team had no timeouts left they were penalized (5 yards for delay of game, I believe). Interestingly, the team making the subs had a full 2 minutes to make the change in personnel, and there was some criticism that the extra time slowed down the action and, when added up by game's end, had unnecessarily extended the length of the game. But usually play began as soon as the subs were made, probably in less than a minute. According to Joe Petritz, the league's PR director, most AAFC games lasted between 2 hours, 5 minutes and 2 hours, 20 minutes, though occasionally the elapsed time might reach 2 hours, 45 minutes.

One way to get around being charged with a timeout was to make wholesale changes after third down if the clock had been stopped by an incomplete pass or a player going out-of-bounds. Thus, on 4th down the defensive platoon (probably not the entire 11, but the so-called "specialists") would line up on offense for the punt, then stay on the field as possession changed. In fact, this was a frequent maneuver---both teams changing their respective offensive and defensive platoons so that no timeout was needed for the switch. There were quite a few two-way "iron men" in the AAFC, but I imagine the true "60-minute man" ---i.e., a guy who never left the field for even a single play---was quite a rarity by then.

There were proposals in the summer of 1949, just before camp opened for what proved to be the AAFC's final season, to raise the number of players entering the game while the clock was running to 2 or 3 players, or to just allow unlimited substitution at all times (like the NFL). But both proposals were voted down by the league's coaches and owners. They did make a minor change to the rules, though. Starting that season, the kicker was allowed to return w/o an intervening play if there was a penalty on a kick.

By comparison, in 1949 the NFL had unlimited substitution on every play and college ball allowed unlimited substitution whenever the ball changed hands.

There's probably a good Coffin Corner article in there somewhere---trying to untangle the various substitution rules in the NFL, AAFC, and NCAA in the 1940s and '50s. Of course, coaches and players were creative in skirting the rules---again, interesting fodder for any such article.

Re: AAFC Substitution Rules

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 6:26 pm
by RichardBak
TodMaher wrote:Does anyone know what substitution rules the AAAFC used?
I ask this because of players like Phil Martinovich who was apparently used only as a kicker - thus raising the question did the AAFC have unlimited substitution during it existence?


In my rambling TLDR post I forgot to simply answer the question. :D At no point in its history did the AAFC permit unlimited substitution.

Re: AAFC Substitution Rules

PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:46 am
by rhickok1109
A quick way to check on this sort of thing is to look at defensive stats for QBs and other offensive stars. Otto Graham had 5 INTs in 1946 and 1 each in 1947 and 1948. That tells me that the AAfC didn't have unlimited substitution in those seasons.