Math experts on Rocky Long's side for controversial fourth-down plan
Posted by: Chris Vannini on August 16, 2012
Rocky Long made headlines all over the country when he revealed that the Aztecs were considering not punting when inside the opponents' 50-yard line this season.
The key word there is "considering." While many people jumped to an opinion on the idea, Long hasn't yet decided to use the strategy in a game, which was inspired by Arkansas high school coach Kevin Kelley .
"I don't know if I'm comfortable with it or not, yet," Long told ESPN Radio. "That's why we're experimenting in practice with it, every time we scrimmage now. We are working on a punt team. I want you to know that. We work on our special teams before we scrimmage, and when we scrimmage, we go for every fourth down.
"We're keeping track of the stats. We're even doing it when we're not over the 50-yard line, just to get a feel for it and see how it works. If we're comfortable with it and we think that this gives us an advantage, I think we'll do it. If we're not comfortable and don't think it gives us an advantage, we won't do it."
As for the response Long has received? Football fans come down on both sides, but the people who specialize in numbers like it.
"It's a total range. I get emails about what a great idea it is, it adds something to football, it's exciting, it's this and that. And I get several e-mails telling me what an idiot I am to even be considering such a thing," Long said. "The most amazing things is, I've received over 30 e-mails from economists, from mathematicians, from scientists that give me their theories on why you would go for fourth down rather than punt or kick a field goal.
"The formulas are something I can't understand, because I'm not any good at math. But every one of them, the conclusion is that coaches should go for a lot more fourth downs."
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Chris Vannini is a lead writer for CoachingSearch.com and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and MLive.com. He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org