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 Pitt graduate sets out to fix NFL scheduling quirks

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Join date : 2011-09-28
Location : from upper Ohio Valley to Conyers Ga.

PostSubject: Pitt graduate sets out to fix NFL scheduling quirks   Mon Jun 29, 2015 10:45 am

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Pitt graduate sets out to fix NFL scheduling quirks

By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dr. Murat Kurt spent eight years at the University of Pittsburgh getting his master’s degree and doctorate in industrial engineering. He received national awards for his dissertation on healthcare modeling applied to Type 2 diabetes and kidney diseases.

So why is he now spending his time researching scheduling quirks in the National Football League?

That’s easy. During his time in the city, Kurt also became a big Steelers fan. He watched the team win two Super Bowls and developed a passion for football.

Now an assistant professor in the industrial and systems engineering department at the University of Buffalo, Kurt is part of a research team that presented a paper at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in February on imbalances within NFL schedules, notably teams playing each other on dissimilar rest.

“It’s very different from the work I did at Pitt, but I’m also a big football fan,” said Kurt, who studied at Pitt from 2005-12. “I noticed quirks in the schedule, saw imbalances, especially with the Thursday night games. Owners, coaches and players all complain about having to play the Thursday night games, but they do it because of the millions of dollars it generates from television.”

When Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon made a formal complaint to the league in 2013 about having to play five games against opponents with more rest, Kurt and his team received the funding to begin their research.

Kurt, along with professor Mark Karwan and graduate students Niraj Pandey and Kyle Cunningham, set out to eliminate disadvantages due to off weeks, minimize disadvantages due to Thursday games, avoid undesirable home/away patterns, eliminate long travel on short weeks and offer better distribution of divisional games.

The paper generated such a buzz that Mike North, the director of scheduling for the NFL, contacted the research team looking to exchange information on ways to improve the schedule. North gave the University of Buffalo team some classified information the previous research did not include such as stadium restrictions, requests from broadcast partners and wish lists from teams on when they wanted to schedule games. Kurt and his team expanded their data and will use it in follow-up research and papers on NFL scheduling. The two parties also agreed to exchange information in the future.

continued on page 2


interesting that the two parties are talking always room for improvement.

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
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