A View of the Sidelines
By Drew Ruble
As the pro football season winds to a close and the National Football League’s 50th Super Bowl looms ahead, at least two teams who had spectacular seasons will soon be priming for the game of their lives and feeling good about the state of their organizations.For many of the other 30 teams (and their rabid fan bases), the opposite will be true. Unfulfilled expectations will have no doubt led to finger-pointing and blame-casting—much of it directed squarely at the head coaches of underperforming squads.Fans and media in such markets often cry out for change at the head coaching position, which seems reasonable enough. After all, anyone who knows anything about company culture knows that it all starts at the top. In recent pro football seasons, as many as a third of head coaches league-wide have been fired at season’s end. Our hometown Titans even made a head coaching change at midseason this past year.The trend arguably reflects the impatient, quick-fix mentality that we possess collectively as a society, wherein we expect overnight results “or else.” A quick trigger characterizes coaching decisions in professional baseball and basketball as well. In fact, pro basketball has on multiple occasions in the past few years witnessed head coaches getting fired even after producing winning seasons and making the playoffs.
Dr. Michael Roach, an assistant professor of economics at MTSU, recently conducted a study that turns the logic of replacing coaches for improvement’s sake on its head. In a study of all NFL teams from 1995 to 2012, Roach concluded that firing a head coach actually reduces the next season’s win total by eight-tenths of a win and in fact decreases the likelihood of a team making the playoffs by 12 percent.
“If you’re an organization, and you think that a change of coaching is going to change your on-field fortunes overnight, I think it’s useful to understand that that’s, on average, not the case,” said Roach, who published his research in the academic journal Applied Economics Letters.
Economics & Finance, Faculty, Michael Alexander Roach
There is no doubt that making a needed change in order to right a ship is the proper thing to do in some situations, even if it results temporarily in an organization taking a small step back. Roach’s study is interesting, nevertheless, and certainly good perspective for fans who tend to be blind to certain realities regarding the teams they support.
Now, I’m a sports fan. I always have been. And although I realize the plight of my teams—good or bad—won’t change the world, I nevertheless root for them with great energy, living and dying with their success or lack of it. Similarly, Roach’s study isn’t the cure for cancer or the answer to world peace. That said, it is interesting research that impacts our lives—our real lives—even those parts of them that don’t have tremendous consequence in the grand scheme. (Still, the owners of billion-dollar sports franchises would do well to review Roach’s research.)
Roach’s research, for me, serves as a personal reminder that working in an environment of thinkers like at MTSU—and getting a chance to write about them—is both a blessing and a lot of fun. This latest edition of MTSU Magazine offers up more stories of the intellectual curiosity that abounds on the MTSU campus and is imparted to MTSU students every day. I hope that as an alum of MTSU, you’re proud of your University and the clever work transpiring here on a day-to-day basis—including when what it’s about is the underlying logic of your favorite football team’s decision to retain or fire its coach.
Ready for Liftoff
Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is one of the fastest-growing areas in aviation today. From search and rescue operations to public utilities monitoring to archeological mapping, the applications for UAS are multiplying so rapidly that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is scrambling to establish regulations for their commercial use.
There’s a burgeoning job market on the horizon, and MTSU’s Department of Aerospace is already preparing students to fill those positions through Aerospace’s newly launched program in UAS Operations, currently one of only five such programs in the nation.
Commercial UAS operators are still pilots, and earning a pilot’s license is a core part of the degree curriculum. Pilot training isn’t required for UAS hobbyists, who are restricted to low, line-of-sight flying in limited areas. But operating a UAS in the national airspace—400 feet and above—means you’re operating amongst commercial airliners, private pilots, and corporate aircraft.
MTSU, always the pioneer in aerospace education, started planning its UAS program in 2009. During the multi-year lead to its new degree program, Aerospace department faculty members were busy forging research partnerships and collaborating with industry experts and municipalities to get students UAS experience and connections. In 2011, for instance, MTSU made great strides toward this goal when it entered an educational partnership with the U.S. Army for UAS studies, a historical first.