Through the Uprights


The football rules in college football were changed a few years ago have made the uprights 5 feet narrower than previously. Many game commentators have harped about how much harder it is to kick field goals from the hash marks. Assume the field goal is attempted from the hash marks. At what yard marker does the kicker have maximum angle to the two uprights. Note: You will need to find out the width of the uprights and the width of the hash marks . . . make a sketchpad model. Is there any merit to some commentators argument to take a penalty in order to have a "better angle" on the field goal kick?


The results of an investigation of the angle a place kicker faces when attempting a field goal in the college game today might be surprising. As we see in the problem stated above most commentators believe that a place kicker has a "bad" angle when he is close to the goal line, and would have a better angle if the team took a penalty to "back the ball up" five or ten yards. We will take a look at several different distances below to compare the angle the place kicker ACTUALLY faces when attempting field goal, I think you may be surprised!!!

First, lets take a look at a 45-yard field goal, which would actually put the kick from the 50-yard line due to the fact that the holder usually spots the ball approximately 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage:

You can see from the image above that our kicker has an angle of 8.58 degrees when attempting the 45-yard field goal.

Next, let's move the kicker in 10 yards as if attempting a 35-yard field goal, again the kick would actually be 40-yards from the Goal Line and investigate that angle:

We see that when he gets 10 yards closer to the goal line he actually increases his angle, so he "sees a bigger target", using the commentator terms.

Let's continue to look at closer examples and see if there is a point where the place kicker's angle gets smaller, a distance that he "should take a penalty"????

A 25-yard Field Goal Attempt, the angle = 12.43 degrees


A 15-yard Field Goal Attempt, the angle = 15.83 degrees


A 5-yard Field Goal Attempt, angle = 21/13 degrees


A Field Goal Attempt from just outside the Goal Line, angle = 24.56 degrees


Click here to explore the angles further


We can see from our investigation above that "taking a penalty" when a team is attempting a field goal when they are close to the end zone, is not a good idea, in fact they are making the angle smaller for their place kicker. So the commentators suggestion is a common misconception, and someone needs to call into the post-game show and correct their line of thinking!