Tag Archives: rules

Uncontested touchdown

The Chiefs beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl and even people who liked the outcome didn’t like the ending. With a little under two minutes left, the score tied, and the Eagles out of time outs, running back Jerick McKinnon broke free and headed for the end zone; but he stopped at the 2 yard line and took a knee, setting up the opportunity for the Chiefs to run down the clock to nothing and then kick a chip-shot game-winning field goal. Had McKinnon scored a touchdown, the Eagles would have been 7 points down, but Jalen Hurts would have had the chance to try to make it back up the field, with no time outs left, and even the score.

That’s football! That’s what people want to see! Instead, we got the Chiefs taking a knee.

What if McKinnon weren’t allowed to do what he did? That is — what if a touchdown play that the defense chose not to contest simply counted as a touchdown? Or, more simply — what if the defense, at any time, were allowed to concede a touchdown as “uncontested,” give up 6 points and the conversion, and force a kickoff?

It would be kind of like the intentional walk of football. Or even more specifically the intentional bases-loaded walk, where you give up points on purpose to achieve a larger strategic goal. But the uncontested touchdown rule, instead of avoiding a thrilling faceoff between the tiring pitcher and the fiercest slugger, would avoid… the weak fart of an ending we just saw.

I think teams would hardly ever do this. In fact, I can’t really think of any situation where a team would do this other than the exact situation that came to pass in this Super Bowl. And I think the Super Bowl would have been better football if the rules had given Philadelphia this option.

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Reader survey: what are the unwritten laws of hiring in math?

My post about a recent hiring controversy has generated the longest-ever comment thread on this blog, beating out the “Do you wear a watch?” survey.  One thing I learned from the comment thread is that people have quite divergent ideas about what the implicit ethical rules of hiring actually are!  There’s a lot to be said for tacit, organic systems of moral agreements as against formal laws.  But for such a thing to work requires some kind of general consensus.  Do we have it?

I thought it would be interesting to address this question directly.  I’ll start with a few things I think of as rules, both for candidates and for departments.


  • If you accept a job, you need to show up there the following fall unless you are explicitly released from your commitment.  This commitment lasts one academic year
  • Don’t apply for a job that you wouldn’t accept if it were the only job you got.


  • You can’t ask a candidate how likely they would be to accept an offer before you make the offer.  I think it’s OK, though slightly awkward, to ask after the offer is made.
  • You can’t ask a candidate if they’re married.  (This is actually a written law, at least in the US — but it is widely violated.)
  • If you give a candidate a deadline, you are not allowed to subsequently move the deadline earlier.  (I know of at least one such case this year!)

Are these actually rules?  What are the other rules?  Go to.

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