Tuck, Queens teams win First Pitch Case Competition

Finalists presented recommendations at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

As some of the sharpest minds in sports and technology debated how analytics are changing the game, the next generation of business leaders presented intriguing findings of their own at the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston.

Chuck Culp, Jonathan Ryder and David Sibley of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business won first prize for MBA students in the 2013 First Pitch Sports Business Case Competition presented by MLB Advanced Media. Josh Hoffman, Devon MacMurray and Samuel Petras, business students at Queen's University in Ontario, took home top honors in the undergraduate track.

The competition kicked off January 25, with MBA students analyzing the business model for MLB.TV and undergraduates examining potential new business opportunities within MLB.com's At The Ballpark mobile app. Three teams of finalists from each track were selected in late February to present their findings to a judging panel on Friday, and winners were named during Saturday's Alpha Awards Ceremony.

Culp said that he'd participated in case competitions before, but that analyzing a leading sports product presented a unique challenge. Ryder agreed, emphasizing that he and his teammates benefitted from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints.

"Our process was basically getting together in a conference room and working through some of the data, trying to divide and conquer some of the analysis," Ryder said. "And then regrouping and trying to do that again couple times."

Once they'd reached their conclusions about how to improve marketing and profitability for MLB.TV, which has provided users with more than 1.5 billion live game streams since launching in 2002 and saw 40 percent growth in subscribers during the 2012 season, it was off to Boston to present the findings.

Judges selected the Tuck submission as the winner over finalists from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and the Columbia School of Business based on business feasibility, technical feasibility, creativity, originality and presentation.

Although the three Booth students are each pursuing post-MBA plans outside of the sports world, they were grateful for some experience in the field.

"I like the way that sports is evolving and that other people are using quantitative techniques," Culp said. "This was more a way for me to stretch my brain outside of school than something I necessarily want to use to move into a career in sports, although I would never rule one out."

Like their graduate-level counterparts, Hoffman, MacMurray and Petras spent several late nights hashing out strategies to improve the in-stadium experience for fans with At The Ballpark.

"We knew that it would be competitive," MacMurray said. "So we wanted to come up with a creative and out-of-the-box idea. We were pretty passionate on the subject, so we had some pretty fun meetings putting the submission together."

Ultimately, the judges decided their case was the strongest in the undergraduate track's first year. Teams from Laurentian University and Ohio University placed second and third, respectively.

"We worked on this for so long and only knew our ideas, so it was nice to see what other people thought about the case, said Hoffman. "And it was thought provoking to see new ideas and different perspectives some teams had taken on the case."