Yeah, all season long (and every year in the past) tethers were specifically ruled as entanglement hazards and would be illegal, but when a couple teams showed up with them, FIRST let them go. Here’s their ruling:
Starting with the answer to the question:
Yes, the rules on tethers have been loosened. And, we apologize. Why?
We had to. Please read on.
Is this unfair to teams that correctly and strictly interpreted our
rules updates as posted during the season? Probably. We know it, and
please believe that we don’t feel great about the way it went down.
Now, the details. We loosened up on the tethering rules, as a result
of VCU. Want to know why? We asked a certain Pappalardo Professor of
Engineering at MIT for his guidance. Maybe you’ve heard of him - Dr.
Woodie Flowers. Dr. Flowers’ comments to us at VCU were basically
that if the teams have put time and effort into engineering a tether
or tethered device, let them demonstrate it. We also thought back to
the kickoff and Dean’s approval of being able to be in 2 places at
So what the rule has become is that unless it’s a piece of string or
flimsy unprotected wire, it can be deployed. With Woodie’s estimable
guidance in place, the situation changed. (Please, don’t contact
him.) Protected mechanisms (like the segmented, encased successful
objects that we’ve seen) will usually be allowed.
As a result, we are allowing the less egregious tethers to be used,
because that is what we must do. It is unfair to the teams that
avoided them expecting a strict rule interpretation up until now. But
it is clearly worse to allow the current angst over this issue to
Know that below the noise level here, we really are disallowing some
mechanisms that clearly would cause entanglement. Also, the lack of
resolution on the webcasts -for the 99% of you without a dedicated
1GB/second web server available - makes some decent tether designs
appear as loose wire, when in fact they are protected, encased,