Pulaski Academy (AR) head coach Kevin Kelley is widely recognized in football and coaching circles for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, always onside kicking, always going for two-point conversions instead of PATs, and of course, always going for it on fourth down and NEVER punting.
Kelley has shared in interviews over the years that a number of college and NFL coaches have reached out to him to pick his brain about the numbers he's studied to make sense of the philosophy that many consider outlandish. However, despite the success Kelley has had with it, no coach or organization has had the guts (or support) to do it at the college or professional level.
The chart allows you have some fun by sorting by conference, season, and also allows you to search by specific team.
Leading the charge the past few seasons? According to the research, it's none other than Washington State head coach Mike Leach. Leach, who took over the Wazzu program in 2012, spent that first season ranked #27, choosing to go for it on just under 25% of 4th downs. In 2014, Leach's Coogs went for it a whopping 38% of the time, which led the country. How many of those did they convert in '14? 45%, good enough for 93rd nationally. That year they also finished 3-8.
Fast forward to 2015, and 2016 though, where Leach's teams went 9-4 and 8-5 respectively, and Wazzu still ranked in the top five among programs who chose not to punt on fourth down, #3 in 2015 (35% of the time), and #5 in 2016 (33% of the time), where they converted 67% of the time (2015) and 55% of the time (2016).
Another interesting takeaway from the chart is Army under Jeff Monken, who arrived to take over the program in 2014. Army has ranked #4, #13, and #1 in going for it on fourth down. Last year, while ranked #1 in going for it Monken's squad rattled off 7-regular season wins, including a historic win over Navy before going on to win the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
How about the perennial powers like Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Florida State? Where do they fit in all this?
Digging around on those programs has revealed perhaps the most conservative coach in the country.
In the past three seasons, Jimbo Fisher has decided to go for it on fourth down 7% of the time or less in two of those seasons, ranking the Seminoles as 128th / 128 teams both years. The year they won the national title (2013), they ranked 125 with just 4 fourth down attempts on the year, converting on three of those.
Moral of the story here? There are a lot of different ways find success. Leach and a handful of other coaches have found success while pushing the envelope, while Jimbo and Saban are on the other end of the spectrum, and Dabo's program falls somewhere in between.