By Chuck Mellott
When most people argue about which sports team is best, they often refer to statistics such as championships, winning percentage, and even intangibles like teamwork or athleticism. Only a select few sports enthusiasts integrate linear algebra or advanced probability regression models into the argument. The Furman-organized Carolinas Sports Analytics Meeting is designed to do exactly that: predict the contingencies in sporting events by applying algorithms and advanced mathematical techniques.
The second annual Carolinas Sports Analytics Meeting, hosted by the Furman University Mathematics Department, is set to take place this Saturday, April 12, at Patrick Lecture Hall in Plyler. The event will begin and end with two keynote speakers, Jason Rosenfeld and Peter Keating, while the majority of the event will consist of four student and four faculty talks and 13 poster presentations. The event is expected to run from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to the event’s website, “Statistics are ingrained in modern organized sports. They help scouts discover talent, they help fans separate the best from the rest, and they unveil the game’s true winners and losers. Popularized by ‘Moneyball,’ the book and movie, sports statistics have become an industry unto themselves. The Carolinas Sports Analytics Meeting, first held in April 2013 on the Furman campus, provides a venue for faculty, students, and experts to collaborate in this field of research.”
The prestigious guest speakers, Jason Rosenfeld and Peter Keating, both apply statistical analysis to different realms of sports in their daily lives. Twenty-five-year-old Rosenfeld graduated from Harvard with a statistics degree and is currently working for the Charlotte Bobcats as the Director of Basketball Analytics. Rosenfeld has not only applied statistical analysis to basketball but also the MLB and NFL. In 2008, Rosenfeld performed consulting work in order to help build a fantasy football league model.
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical analysis of all kinds of sports. He created “The Biz” column for the magazine in 1999, which continues to thrive today. He has received numerous awards from the Center for Study of Sport in Society, the New York Press Club, and the Deadline club for his studies on concussions in football.
A good portion of speakers at the event are Furman-affiliated, but there will be students and professors from all over the Carolinas, and even from Iowa and Texas, presenting their research.
Furman professors Dr. Kevin Hutson, Dr. Liz Bouzarth, and Dr. John Harris are all spearheading the Carolinas Sports Analytics Meeting. Dr. Hutson and Dr. Bouzarth both asserted that although the focal points of the event will be the guest speakers, there is a strong emphasis on the student-led presentations. It’s a chance for the student body to demonstrate the advanced mathematical concepts they have been learning and apply them to a field that everybody can relate to.
Furman is renowned for its statistical applications to real world enigmas. In 2012, Dr. Hutson and Dr. Harris both worked to devise a system that ranks college football teams. The system they developed is now used to seed the FCS teams in the playoffs. According to Dr. Hutson, they developed a system that “involves not only how well you perform, but how your opponent’s opponents perform and how well your opponent’s opponent’s opponents perform. The network provides a way to link everybody to everybody else.”
The event is open to everybody interested in attending. Registration is online at http://math.furman.edu/csam/. There is a registration fee of $25, which includes a lunch as part of the admission ticket. Students who have declared a mathematics major are able to attend the event for free if they contact the Mathematics Department.