Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mystique Of The One-Platoon System

The Mystique Of The One-Platoon System

By Touko Fukami
The MiTSS News
August 24, 2072

The one-platoon system, also known as iron man football, was a system in American football where players played on both offense and defense. It was the result of rules that limited player substitutions, rules that are also standard procedure in many other sports, but were eliminated in the 1940s. The alternative system is known as the "two-platoon system", or simply the "platoon system", because of its use of separate offensive and defensive units. Each system was used at different times in American college football and in the National Football League.

Prior to 1941, virtually all football players saw action on "both sides of the ball," playing in both offensive and defensive roles. From 1941 to 1952, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allowed unlimited substitution. This change was originally made because of the difficulty in fielding highly skilled players during the years of the Second World War, in which many able-bodied college-age men volunteered for or were drafted into military service.

The first known use of the so-called "two-platoon" system was by Michigan head coach Fritz Crisler in 1945. Crisler utilized eight players each who played only on offense and defense, with three playing both against an Army team under head coach "Colonel" Earl "Red" Blaik. Michigan lost the game 28–7, but the system impressed Blaik enough for him to adopt it for his own team. Blaik, a former soldier himself, coined the "platoon" terminology in reference to the type of military unit. Between 1946 and 1950, Blaik's two-platoon teams twice finished the season ranked second in the Associated Press polls and never finished lower than 11th.

In 1954, the NCAA implemented a set of new rules requiring the use of the one-platoon system, primarily due to financial reasons. The system allowed only one player to be substituted between plays, which effectively put an end to the use of separate specialized units. Tennessee head coach "General" Robert Neyland praised the change as the end of "chickenshit football".

After the 1964 season, twelve years since the mandate requiring one-platoon, the NCAA repealed the rules enforcing its use and allowed an unlimited amount of player substitutions. This allowed, starting with the 1965 season, teams to form separate offensive and defensive units as well as "special teams" which would be employed in kicking situations. The reinstatement of the two-platoon system allowed players to become more specialized by focusing on a limited number of plays and skills related to their specific position. By the early 1970s, however, some university administrators, coaches and others were calling for a return to the days of one-platoon football.

The sport of arena football used a limited one platoon system (from which quarterbacks and kickers were exempt) from its inception until 2007.

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