Behind the Mic: No “Foot-Ball”

Did you ever wonder why our favorite sport is called “football”?  After all, it is a game that is played primarily with your hands.  Soccer, on the other hand, deserves the name “futbol” because it is played with, well, you can guess.  So why do we call it “football”?  According to Wikipedia:

There are conflicting explanations of the origin of the word “football”. It is widely assumed that the word “football” (or “foot ball”) references the action of the foot kicking a ball. There is an alternative explanation, which is that football originally referred to a variety of games in Medieval Europe, which were played on foot. There is no conclusive evidence for either explanation.

In other words, no one seems to know.

There is one high school coach, however, who knows the name should definitely not be “foot-ball”.  He could appropriately call it “No-foot-ball”.  Kevin Kelley is the coach of Pulaski Academy in Arkansas.  He has been the coach since 2003.  He took over a struggling program and in the past 11 years his team has won three state titles.  His record is 124-22.  AND, except in very special situations, he never punts.  That’s right.  He never punts!!

Why?  Because he has statistically proven that there is no advantage to giving the other team the ball.  Even if you have the ball on your own 5-yard line, Kelley says you should not punt.  If you make the first down, there is no problem.  If you do not, the opponent’s chance of scoring is 92%.  If you punt the ball, statistics show the other team will get the ball around your 40-yard line.  Again, statistics show the opponent still has a 77% chance of scoring.  That’s only a 15% difference.  More numbers – Pulaski gets the first down 50% of the time.  California University professor David Romer agrees.  He said high school punters are very unreliable and therefore high school teams should never punt.  And your chances of making ten yards in four downs as opposed to three are dramatically increased.  The only time Kelley does punt is near the end of a half or at the end of a game when he feels time does not permit the other team to score.

When Kelley’s teams score, he adds another ripple to his unconventional style.  He ALWAYS onside kicks.  His team is successful 20% of the time in recovering the kick.  That is not a very high percentage, but once again, statistics prove his point.  The average drive after a kickoff starts on the 33-yard line.  The average field position after an onsides kick is the 47-yard line, a difference of just 14 yards.  Pulaski will cause a turnover one in five kickoffs – well worth the 14-yard risk.

How do you think Lehigh Valley fans would react to this decision-making?  We all know that fans’ patience with high school coaches’ decisions is far from tolerant.  Going for and failing to make a first down inside your own five-yard line on fourth down would definitely create, to put it mildly, disgruntlement. One of Kevin Kelley’s fellow coaches succinctly explained why he is not a disciple of the Pulaski philosophy, “I like my job, and I would like to keep it.”

This would, however, bring the “foot” back to football, I suppose, because the coach would get “booted” from his job!


  1. I returned from vacation Saturday morning to the devastating news that my friend and fellow announcing buddy for so, so many years, Dick Tracy, had passed away on Friday. My last visit with him suggested it was time.  More on Dick next week.
  2. I was off the ship Saturday morning, got home, and back in the broadcasting booth on Saturday night for the opening game of the 2015 football season – William and Mary at Lafayette and now in high definition. It was great to start another season, but my make-up budget just increased dramatically!
  3. Friday night football went as expected with the Lehigh Valley teams destroying the teams from up north in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference OUTSCORING THEM 359-132 (47 by Stroudsburg in a loss). I wonder if I will see the day when the Pocono teams become formidable opponents.
  4. Congratulations to Liberty for their win on Saturday night. Bethlehem Catholic took a bit too long to get over opening night jitters; Liberty, not so much.  Despite the outcome of game one, Beca will have a terrific season.
  5. I hope you didn’t spend Labor Day “laboring” at the computer like I did.

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Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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