David Kirkpatrick

September 8, 2008

NFL used optimization software for 2008 schedule

Looks like everyone’s excited about the NFL season finally kicking off. I know I am, and the Cowboys look real good. Woot!

Even the gang at CIO.com are into pigskin fever as evidenced by this story today about how the league used specialized optimization software to create this year’s schedule.

From the link:

The National Football League is a professional sports organization known for its meticulous, hands-on approach to everything—how the league contracts with TV networks, how teams draft their players and how those players should act on and off the field, how licensing deals are signed, and how rules are enforced on the playing field.

The NFL doesn’t leave a lot to chance.

The same was true with how NFL executives created the schedule for its teams every year: It was all done by hand, starting the day after the Super Bowl, with a peg board and little tags. “The process was kind of secretive,” says Michael North, the NFL’s director of broadcast planning and scheduling, who’s been with the league for 15 years. “We would go into the room, lock the door and emerge 10 weeks later: ‘Here’s your schedule. Play it.'”

That all changed several years ago, when the NFL realized it could use technology to automate the process—making it more efficient and its schedules better—and a Canadian manufacturing engineer named Rick Stone came knocking on the NFL’s door.

In other NFL news, I wish Tom Brady a speedy recovery. You hate to see the league lose a marquee player at any time, especially week one. It was pretty obvious yesterday, but it’s official today that Brady is out for the season. The AFC just got a lot more interesting.