Friday Factoid: MIT Sloan’s Sports “Dorkapalooza”

Did you know that some of the biggest names in sports have met annually since 2007 for an event at the MIT Sloan School of Management that Bill Simmons, ESPN columnist, has described as “dorkapalooza”? At the student-run Sports Analytics Conference, participants discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry, and students have ample opportunity to network with the elite of the sports world.

The 2013 conference featured presentations and discussions from top industry leaders, including a senior writer and baseball analyst at ESPN; the global head of business development and partnerships at StubHub; the president of Ticketmaster North America; the senior vice president of global sports marketing for PepsiCo; the executive vice president of ESPN; the president, CEO, and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment; the president of the New York Jets; and a former head NBA coach. The event also involved more than two dozen panels covering such topics as “Beyond Crunching Numbers: How to Have Influence,” “Big Data: Lessons for Sports,” “Lance, Doping, and You: The Power (and Peril) of Win-At-All-Costs Culture” and “True Performance and the Science of Randomness.”

The conference’s EOS (Evolution of Sport) Address, described on the event’s Web site as “an opportunity to present a message, an idea, or a revolutionary thought that could change the face of sport,” was first added to the conference agenda in 2011. Multiple EOS topic ideas are submitted each year, and those selected for the 2013 conference included “Beyond The Kiss-Cam: Measuring the Fan with Computer Vision Based Analytics,” “Dequantizing the Player Draft Using Extreme Value Theory,” “Impact of Women’s and Olympic Sports,” “Moneyball Revisited” and “The Printed Athlete: How 3D Printing Is Changing the Face of Sports.”  In 2012, among the 11 discussion topics ultimately chosen were “How New Concussion Technology Will Force Radical Change in Sports” and “The Power of Belief in Sports Performance Research.” Another feature added in 2011 was the First Pitch: MBA Sports Business Case Competition, in which participating teams are presented with a sports business situation and given five days in which to analyze it and develop recommendations and possible solutions that are later presented to a panel of judges.

The event has grown considerably in recent years, and an undergraduate branch of the competition was introduced in 2013. A second-year student and organizer of the event reported to us that that year, 39 MBA teams from 24 business schools and nine undergraduate teams from eight different schools participated. In 2012, 21 teams from 187 top business schools took part in the competition, up from 15 teams from 13 schools in 2011.

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