2013 Annual Recap

The 7th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was held from March 1-2, 2013 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). Attendance grew by over 25% from 2012 to more than 2,700 guests and featured 125 panelists across 30 panels. Featured panelists included: Michael Lewis, Mark Cuban, Nate Silver, RC Buford, Brian Burke, Jack Del Rio, Herm Edwards, Stan Kasten, Jonathan Kraft, Andrea Kremer, Jackie MacMullan, Steve Pagliuca, Bill Polian, Adam Silver, John Skipper, and Stan Van Gundy.

The conference featured multiple panels running simultaneously and covered a range of topics across sports and the business of sports. Featured panels included “Revenge of the Nerds,” which covered the rise of probabilistic thinking using objective data in decision making across all disciplines, “The Changing Nature of Ownership” highlighting the challenges and opportunities for todays’ owners and their various partners, and “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” which discussed whether or not coaches get fired with too great a frequency, and what the data tells us about how these breakups impact performance.

The theme of the 2013 conference was “Going Back to the Data.” Specifically, the conference explored how today’s thought leaders have found more meaningful ways to analyze, visualize and prioritize data to improve decision making. The discussion examined the influence of big data, the rise of technology, and the evolving competitive advantage analytics provides.

The conference continued to emphasize and promote innovation in the sports industry through conference staples such as the research paper competition and Evolution of Sport (EoS) series. Each was again a featured part of the conference, drawing packed audiences across the two days. In the research paper category, “The Value of Flexibility in Baseball Roster Construction” by Timothy Chan and Douglas Fearing took home first prize, while “The Automated Prospect Model” by Adam Guttridge was selected as the best EoS presentation.

Opportunities for students and start-ups to share their ideas remained a focus with the third annual “First Pitch” business case competition sponsored by MLBAM. In a similar forum, the second annual Trade Show Blitz Competition provided space for exploring new, unique ideas in sports analytics from start-up companies.

Finally, our second Lifetime Achievement Alpha Award winner was Bill Belichick, Head Coach of the New England Patriots. He accepted the honor via video and the video promptly went viral.

The conference’s impact on the sports industry continued to grow with over 100 media mentions over the two-day conference, including articles from Bloomberg, Forbes, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. Additionally, the conference trended #3 nationally on Twitter and in the top 5 internationally, with 22,000 #ssac or #ssac13 tweets posted throughout the conference.