The year was 1974. Teams were averaging an inefficient 75 points per game (six more than today) without a 3-point shot or shot clock. The next season would see the NCAA Tournament allow multiple teams from the same conference for the first time. It many ways it was different era for basketball, but in many ways it was no different from today.

The 1974 edition of the NCAA Official Basketball Rules begins with “Committee Action for 1973-74” which lays out rule changes for that season. The section begins, “The popularity and healthy condition of the game of basketball resulted in the the fewest significant changes for 1973-74 that the history of the game has seen.” And the changes that follow are mundane. Rules buffs may be interested to know that the correctable error rules in the book today were firmed up in this edition.

The most interesting things are in the Points of Emphasis and Comments on the Rules Sections.

There were three Points of Emphasis for the 1973-1974 season.

Fouling Away from the Ball – This was noted as the biggest shortcoming in officiating from the previous season. “Unfortunately, some of this fouling has been coached,” the following paragraph notes. Hey, Kelvin Sampson wasn’t even out of college yet!

Illegal Screening – Lest you think that the permissiveness of sloppy screening is a 21st century trend, the ‘74 rulebook provides historical documentation that it most certainly is not. “Unfortunately, there has been an increase in illegal screening recently, especially when the screening is away from the ball.”

Illegal Use of Hands and Arms – And yeah, hand checking wasn’t invented recently either. “Such contact shall not be considered incidental. It is a foul.”

The more verbose “Comments on the Rules” section provides us with a few gems.

Dunking Prohibited – “The pre-game practice or warm-up is for practicing various skills which may be used during the game, and since dunking is not a game skill, it is not to be used or permitted.” This rule continued even after the dunking prohibition was repealed for the 1976-77 season.

Lack of Sufficient Action – Looking back on it, it’s funny that this clause is in the rules in an era when dunking was prohibited. This rule refers to stalling tactics, although “the team behind in score is responsible for action.”

Held Ball – “Some officials call held ball to forestall fouls.” That part makes enough sense, but then this section goes into places that make no sense to me. “That is, they see a player about to charge into, or hold an opponent who has the ball, and they prevent the foul by declaring held ball. Some officials do this chiefly in connection with ‘guarding from the rear,’ claiming their method lessens whistle-blowing. In the long run it leads to a rougher game, more fouls, and more whistle-blowing. Calling ‘guarding from the rear’ strictly promotes a clean, open type of game.

At first, I thought this rule referred to loose-ball scrums which are common today, but now I’m not sure.

Other nuggets of note in the main rules section:

“Coaches shall remain seated on the bench except, while the clock is stopped, they may leave the bench to direct or encourage players who are on the court.”

“A team shall be prohibited from using television monitoring or replay equipment at courtside for coaching purposes.”

Free throw rules were somewhat modern, with the bonus being shot beginning with the seventh team foul. In an era when teams shot just 45% from the field with no 3-pointer available, the 1-and-1 actually was a small bonus for most offenses.

I have a couple of other older rulebooks which I’ll look at in the coming weeks as time permits.