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Chapter V - Changes in Equipment

Electric Scotland Note: We are missing at least one page from this chapter.

As the skill of the players increased, they demanded that the equipment be exact, and especially that the goals be horizontal. To meet these demands, a basket was constructed in which the braces, instead of being welded, were screwed into the rims. This allowed the rims of the goal to be properly adjusted.

It is only in comparatively recent years that the goal has been made without braces and the nets have been opened at the lower end to allow the ball to pass through. Today, a clause in the rules states that the ball shall be momentarily checked as it passes through the net. This rule is frequently neglected; and the ball passes through the net so quickly that the spectators are in doubt as to whether a goal has been made or missed.

The Backboards

The backboards are really the only accessory of the game that are accidental in their origin. Had it not been for the overzealous spectators who gladly used any means to help their team win, the backboard might not be in use today.

When the game began to attract crowds, the only available space for them was in the gallery. As the baskets were nailed to the lower edge of the balcony, it was easy for a person to thrust his hand suddenly through the rail and deflect the ball enough to make it enter or miss the goal, as he desired.

I can distinctly remember one boy about fifteen years old who used to come into the balcony and take a place directly behind the basket. He came early in order that he might always get this seat. He patiently waited an opportunity to help his team by darting his hand through the rail at the proper time to help the ball into the basket.

To do away with this practice, the following year a clause was entered in the rules, which stated that the goal must be protected from the spectators by a screen at least six feet on each side of the goal and at least six feet high. In 1895, the rules stated that there should be a backstop made of screen or other solid material and the size, six feet by four feet, was definitely settled at that time. This is the size of the regulation backboard today.*

When the backboard was made of wood, it interfered with the view of the spectators who were seated behind the goal. This interference came at the most interesting time, when the ball was shot for the basket. To allow the spectators to see the goal, most of the backboards were made of heavy screen.

The baskets are strong iron hoops, with' braided, cord netting, arranged to be mscured to a fcvmnasiuin gallery or wall for indoor use, or on an upright pipe the bottom of which is spiked to be driven into the ground for outdoor use. By means of a co>d the ball is easily discharged after a goal is made.

There were several objections to these screen backboards, however. A visiting team was under a distinct handicap. If the screen was comparatively loose, it would have a certain amount of “give,” and the rebound would be slight.

Another objection to the screen was that after some play, and sometimes by scientific manipulation, the screen would become grooved, and the home team, knowing these peculiarities, would have a decided advantage. These facts led to the introduction of the wooden backboards.

In 1909, plate glass backboards were introduced, in order that the spectators behind the goals might see the ball as it was thrown for the basket. Many of the universities and larger institutions used these backboards for several years. There were, however, some objections. The teams that did not have the glass backboards found themselves at a disadvantage when required to play on a court which was equipped with them.

The carom, shot was not the same on the glass as it was oil the wooden backboard; for the players who were shooting, on looking at the basket, found it suspended without a background. This circumstance made it difficult for a team that had been practicing on the wooden equipment.

When, in 1916, the rules read that the backboards must be painted white, the plate glass backs were considered to be of no further value and were discontinued. However, they are extremely popular today.

The Court

It would be hard for us today to visualize a basketball court with an imaginary boundary line; but so far as the rules were concerned, this was the condition for the first two years of the game.

In 1894, the rules specified that there must be a well-defined line around the playing area at least three feet from the wall or fence. The boundary line naturally followed the contour of the gymnasium walls, which in many cases had projections to accommodate stairways or offices. Many courts were of irregular shape, frequently being wider at one end than at the other. The team that played on the narrow end was therefore handicapped.

In 1903, a clause was inserted in the rules stating that the boundary lines must be straight. Later the rules specifically stated that the court must be a rectangle.

As the game was originally designed to be played on any court, there was no regulation size, the only stipulation being that the larger the court, the greater the number of players. In 1896, when the team was definitely cut to five men, the rules contained a provision that the court should not exceed thirty-five hundred square feet of playing space. This size court was official until 1908, when the maximum court was set as ninety feet long and fifty-five feet wide. The width of the court was reduced to fifty feet in 1915.

In 1917, E. C. Quigley, who is in reality the dean of basketball officials, made a suggestion to the rules committee that proved to be of great value. For years “Quig,” in his capacity as an official, had raced from one end of gymnasiums to the other. One of his greatest difficulties was to determine whether a man who was shooting for a basket under his goal, was in or out of bounds. The goal at that time was directly over the end line, and in the confusion that often occurred under the basket, it was almost impossible to determine just who was in and who was out of bounds. If the basket was made while the player had his foot on the line, it was invalid; this point was the cause of many heated disputes.

At St. Mary’s College, Kansas, Quigley tried an experiment that led to his suggestion. He drew the arc of a circle under the basket and two feet beyond the end line; this area was considered in bounds. After a year’s experiment, Quigley found that this change not only did away with much of the indecision but also helped the game, as it allowed more space under the basket.

The rules committee saw the value of Quigley’s suggestion, and in 1917 they introduced the end zone, the radius of which was seventeen feet, with its center on the free throw line. This end zone was so successful that the following year the extension went entirely across the court. At first the end zones were not included in the court, but in 1933 they became recognized as part of the playing field. The addition of these end zones has increased the length of the court until today the maximum official court is ninety-four by fifty feet.

In 1922, a goal zone line was added to the floor markings. This line was simply an extension of the free-throw line to meet the side lines. It was felt that a foul committed in this area by a defensive player should be more severely dealt with than one committed on some other part of the floor. The rules for that year stated that a foul committed by a defensive player in this territory should carry the penalty of two free throws instead of one. This goal zone was short-lived, and in 1925 it was dropped from the guide.

In 1932, a line across the center of the floor was introduced. This line divided the field into two courts called the front and the back court, according to the team in possession of the ball. Today the use of this line is causing much controversy.

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