American football teams are increasingly using modern statistical tools to give themselves an edge, using mathematicians in the field of football analysis.
Eric Eager, vice president of research and development at SumerSports, a startup aimed at helping football teams optimize their decision-making processes, will discuss his career linking football and math from 4:30-5:30 p.m. October, in the Nebraska Union Auditorium and on Zoom.
Eager earned his Ph.D. in Mathematical Biology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He previously worked at Pro Football Focus, where he built an industry-leading analytics group. Before moving to industry, Eager was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, publishing 25 papers on mathematics, biology, and teaching and learning scholarship.
“When I was at Pro Football Focus, I built simulation models to help teams predict player performance for their particular pattern and usage profiles,” Eager said. “Later, the NFL put RFID chips in players’ shoulder pads, and that tracking data is able to tell us player movement traits that we previously had to discern from event data. For example, how do linebackers balance the interaction between not biting on play-action passes while still being able to stop the run? After years of creating player rating tools to help teams, members of the media and players, I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned to create the best teams the salary cap can buy.
Enhanced by mathematical approaches to understanding the game, the practice of football analysis has coincided with an increase not only in the popularity of the game, but also in the supply of games for fans, Eager said. Using these mathematical models, SumerSports aims to make NFL more effective teams in their roster decisions.
This Department of Mathematics conference is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s STEM RELATE grant and the Simons Foundation. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln community is welcome.