USF hosts third annual Sports and Entertainment Analytics Conference

Arkansas high school coach Kevin Kelley, who will discuss his “no punt” policy at the conference, uses analytics to take the emotion out of his coaching decisions. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

From tracking where fans stop in a stadium to better locate potential spots for stores and restaurants to tracking probabilities of a game to develop innovative strategies, analytics have become an integral part of today’s sports and entertainment industry.

The various ways in which analytics have overtaken the industry will be showcased as part of the USF Sports and Entertainment Analytics Conference from March 29-30 in the USF Alumni Center.

“A lot of people struggle to really understand what analytics are,” said Mike Mondello, professor of marketing at the Muma College of Business and associate director of the USF Sport and Entertainment Management program. 

“Some people’s perception of analytics is about a bunch of equations on a board and algorithms. While that’s part of it, there’s much more to it.

The conference is a big step up from Mondello’s “Analytics Day,” which he held in one of his classes with just a few speakers.

“I would have four or five speakers come in and give their thoughts on what was happening in the industry for one class period,” Mondello said. 

Now in its third year, the conference is drawing speakers that have spoken around the country, including the highly regarded MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Among the more notable names are Jessica Gelman, CEO of Kraft Analytics Group and co-founder of the MIT Sloan conference, and Kevin Kelley, an Arkansas high school football coach known for his “no punt” policy.

“Kevin Kelley is certainly a non-traditional football coach in a lot of ways,” Mondello said. “For him, it’s all about letting the data drive some of the decision making and taking some of the emotion out.”

Kelley, who never punts and almost always elects to onside kick, is one of the first coaches to embrace analytics and use them to his advantage, according to Mondello.

Other speakers include Joe Brown, senior vice president of strategic insights with the NBC Sports Group; Adam Jones, director of sports advisory services with PricewaterhouseCoopers; Chris Kamke, senior director of business strategy and analytics with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Akshay Khanna, vice president of strategy with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Mondello said most, if not all, of the speakers he has chosen are from conferences or lectures that he has attended and heard them speak at. Though some speakers are returning from last year’s conference, he said he tries to rotate enough of them to keep the lineup fresh.

Analytics have begun to form a solid role in the Muma College of Business curriculum since Mondello got to USF five years ago. In his first year at the school, he designed a new course centered on sports analytics, and soon after the college began to offer minors.

Mondello said the program strives to develop five key skills in its students when it comes to analytics: ask the right questions, collect the data, model the data, understand the results and communicate the results to different audiences.

“The Muma College of Business has really embraced analytics and creativity as two areas that it really wants to be thought leaders for higher education,” Mondello said. “We were trying to use analytics or at least parts of analytics in a lot more of our courses.”

Registration is open, with prices ranging from $99 for professionals to $75 for non-USF students to $50 for USF students and faculty.

The conference will run from 1-6 p.m. on March 29 and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 30.