Decision-making on the hot seat and the short list: Evidence from college football fourth down decisions

Mark F. Owens, Michael A. Roach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study examines how career considerations influence risky decisions in the labor market for college football head coaches. We use historical data to predict, based on information available prior to the beginning of a given season, whether a coach will be fired or promoted after that season. Indices created from these models are used, along with other relevant data, to analyze the risky decision to attempt a fourth down conversion. We find that decision-making is sensitive to perceived job stability. Coaches who are more likely to be fired become more conservative, attempting fewer fourth down conversions. Conversely, coaches who are more likely to be promoted undertake more risk by attempting to convert more fourth downs. The result is that coaches with less job security are more likely to make decisions that are sub-optimal from the perspective of win-maximization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-314
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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