April 10, 2021

SSAC21 Day 2 Recap


That’s a wrap! The 2021 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference has come to a close after two full days of thought-provoking panels and incredible research surrounding the world of sports and showing us the data!  We appreciate all of the love and support from our sponsors, speakers, researchers, and viewers during this unprecedented year and virtual environment.

The day kicked off with an impressive start, digging right into the data with Making a QB1: The Science Behind QB Evaluation and The Acceleration of Sports Data Innovation at ESPN.  In these two panels we got to hear great discussions about the future of analytics in sports relating to the scouting and development of a key position in the NFL and also how ESPN plans to leverage the newest technology and player tracking systems to innovate and enhance fan experience and player predictions.

During our Competitive Advantage talks, we gained incredible insight on the effects COVID has had on personal fitness and the new digital advancements, the link between vision, analytics, and performance on the field, as well as the key metrics to winning in tennis revolving around the number of shots.

We continued the morning with some Big Data Energy: How Marketing Technology and Analytics are Changing Sports and topped that off with The Data Dangle: Hockey Analytics.  Our hockey panel cut up the ice, breaking down hockey’s slow adoption of analytics and how the teams are sifting through and utilizing the overloads of data now available. Marketing breached a new level of complexity with virtual fan bases and viewing experiences. Our marketing innovators from the NBA, NBC, Wasserman, and Endeavor took a deep dive into the information they have used to make decisions and how marketing via sports has evolved in this past year.

The afternoon was jam packed with excitement. We had an incredible highlight in a conversation with Mark Cuban and Andy Slavitt discussing the dynamics of the COVID pandemic, the decisions that have been made, and the hurdles we still have to conquer. In Getting a Handle on Social Media: How Data is Engaging GenZ Without Losing GenX, our panelists had some great discussions centered around sports utilizing the social media platform to grasp new viewers while adapting to the older generations. Our Need Fantastic Trophies panel discussed the latest and greatest sports memorabilia, specifically NFTs. The panelists provided unique insights and support for the creativity surrounding the new digital tokens and the part leagues, management, and players will play in the development of this new memorabilia.

We kept the afternoon rolling and discussed Daryl’s new city and observations of newest trends in sports and team investments. In Phillie Phanatics: How Teams Cultivate and Grow a Passionate Fanbase, we got to hear thoughts on what brings fans together and the energy a superfan base can bring to a team.  Just like in Jerry McGuire, we asked our Alternate Investing: Teams and SPACs panel to show us the money. The overall market and digitization have evolved the way players, corporations, and teams are investing in sports and our incredible group of speakers gave us the scoop.

On a new note we took an inside look at the reality series Survivor.  In Outwit, Outplay, Out-analyze: Survivor Analytics our panelists gave us an incredible look inside the game’s strategies, tactics, and game theory.  They also discussed how the game has evolved over the years and how constant analysis of each player is critical to progressing through the ranks. We had a lot of fun rehashing old drama and learning more about the analytics behind this reality favorite. 

In another highlight we discussed two major issues impacting the sports world. First we touched on The Invisible Opponent: Our Mental Crisis, where our amazing speakers relayed their personal struggles with mental health and the importance of the sports community taking action on this issue to support the athletes and de-stigmatize mental health. Next up was the issue of equality in Women’s Sports: The Time is Now and the steps that need to be taken to truly spotlight the value of women’s sports. The panel also discussed misconceptions surrounding the popularity of women’s sports and why now is a pivotal time to invest in this industry.  

Finally we closed out the day with two incredible perspectives on entrepreneurship and building an empire. In Self-Made Sports Legends and Entrepreneurs, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Rubin chat about their unique perspectives from the field to the boardroom building businesses and how data helped them make crucial decisions. These two extremely driven individuals gave us key insights to overcome adversity and build brands that can accomplish good in the world.

On behalf of our Co-Founders Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey, our student Co-Leads Maggie Riddle and Lindsay Solotar, and our entire student organizing team – thank you to our speakers, sponsors, and attendees for joining us on this virtual journey and making SSAC21 the best one yet!

Remember to save the date for our 16th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on March 4th-5th, 2022



  • “A lot of traditional football minds are skeptical of statistics, because a lot of the old stats we have are bad. A lot of the new metrics really come back to adding more context and more football knowledge.” - Kevin Meers, Marking a QB1: The Science behind QB Evaluations
  • "Imagine what our country would be like if 80% of the people voted. I love that 80% of our players cared enough to weigh in." - DeMaurice Smith, Negotiating the Future: How Priorities Changed as a Result of COVID
  • "We always talk about good faith in negotiations. Sometimes it helps to say, 'Forget about basketball and salaries. We're talking about players' livelihoods here.'" - Sue Bird, Negotiating the Future: How Priorities Changed as a Result of COVID
  • “Data is a funny thing - you use it intelligently to give people the right message at the right time but there is the other side of it where too much customization can feel off.” - Paul Caine, Big Data Energy: How Marketing Technology and Analytics are Changing Sports
  • "Someone smart once told me it's easier to do something than to do nothing. And Americans were told to do nothing." - Andy Slavitt, A Conversation with Mark Cuban and Andy Slavitt
  • "At the end of the day its the quality of engagement across all events that matters most."- Christine Wixted, Getting a Handle on Social Media: How Data is Engaging GenZ Without Losing GenX
  • When I was a kid, I wanted to be 3 things when I grew up — a rapper, a comedian, and an NBA player…I’m not giving up on the NBA thing.” - Lil Dicky, Phillie Phanatics: How Teams Cultivate and Grow a Passionate Fanbase
  • "I would have loved to have someone to talk with, decompress with growing up. I always felt that I needed to be the model of toughness both physically and mentally. I did not realize the detriments of that attitude until I retired." - Shane Battier, The Invisible Opponent: Our Mental Health Crisis
  • “The data shows that 84% of sports fans are interested in women’s sports…the myth around people not being interested in women’s sports is totally wrong.”- Cathy Engelbert, Women’s Sports: The Time is Now
  • “There are female athletes who have transcended the sport — you don’t even need to know the sport to know who some of these athletes are! The proposition for brands is: -”Would you like to be aligned with female superheroes?’” - Alexis Ohanian, Women's Sports: The Time is NOW
  • “I'm like a sponge. This is how I learn. I don't read books. Part of being a sponge is you have to be a great listener."- Michael Rubin, Self-Made Sports Legends and Entrepreneurs
  • "Hockey is such a dynamic sport... for players, analytics can be a differentiator for how we look to evaluate our game and improve." - Hilary Knight, The Data Dangle: Hockey Analytics
  • "Haters hate. And then they copy." - Alex Rodriguez, Self-Made Sports Legends and Entrepreneurs


Research Paper Presented by 42 Analytics

1st Place: Routine Inspection: A Playbook for Corner Kicks (Laurie Shaw, Sudarshan Gopaladesikan)
2nd Place: Risk of Collusion: Will Groups of 3 Ruin the FIFA World Cup? (Julien Guyon)
3rd Place: MAYFIELD: Machine Learning Algorithm for Yearly Forecasting Indicators and Estimation of Long-Run Player Development (Alexander Williams, Sethward Brugler, Benjamin Clarke)

Hackathon Presented by MLB

Student Division Winner: Devlin Sullivan with his report “Seam Shifted Wake Movement in World Series Sinkers: Who has the most extra stuff?”
Open Division Winner: Michael Shealy and Mack Meyer with their report: “Quantifying the Effects of Wind Speed and Direction on Fly Balls in MLB Games”

Don’t Get Defensive Presented by ESPN

Carter Lawhorn

Sports Gaming Innovation Challenge presented by DraftKings

Veer Gangwal, Jose Tomas de Gregorio, Jack Blasburg (MIT Sloan)
2nd Place: Divjot Singh (Yale)
3rd Place: Edward Healy, Ben Helmrath, Emma Goode (Maryland, Duke, USC)

Startup Competition

Under $1 million funding track - SEQNZR
Over $1 million funding track - Proteus Motion

10th Annual Alpha Awards

Best Sports Transactions: Arizona Cardinals trade for DeAndre Hopkins
Best Analytics Organization:
Tampa Bay Rays