Sports, prisons and farewell US Airway

Former Operations Research Editor-in-Chief Larry Wein’s incisive research into American prison reform and Matthew Liberatore’s use of Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to recast top sports records are just two examples of INFORMS news that reached a broader audience.

Visit the INFORMS Newsroom at for news about analytics and INFORMS press releases regarding intriguing scholarship appearing in INFORMS journals.

Following are excerpts from INFORMS in the news:

New Light on Top Sports Accomplishments

Big-time college football produces big bucks.

Big-time college football produces big bucks.

Peyton Manning could break Brett Favre’s NFL record for most career passing yards if he throws for at least 284 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

But in the universe of sports’ greatest feats, is this record really that impressive?

A study published in October in the Journal of Sports Analytics suggests otherwise. The study, by Villanova professors Matthew Liberatore, Bret Myers and Robert Nydick and Temple professor Howard Weiss, attempts to quantify and rank the best MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL records of all time. It includes single-game, season, career and consecutive-streak records.

The best record of all belongs to Barry Bonds – but it’s not for hitting home runs.

- Wall Street Journal, Nov. 6

Why a College Football Win is Worth millions

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Management Science, Harvard professor Doug Chung puts a dollar figure on the value of each additional win for big-time college football programs. He finds that each additional win creates a bump of about $3 million, through increases in revenue streams like ticket and merchandise sales, television contracts, and booster donations.

- Boston Globe, Nov. 5

Operations Researcher’s Farewell to US Airways

In mid-October, US Airways ceased to exist as an independent entity. Many passengers will doubtless say “good riddance,” for they voted the carrier a two-star rating from J. D. Power and ranked it below average on almost every dimension. But US Airways deserves a much fonder farewell than that.

A final send-off for US Airways.

A final send-off for US Airways.

I study aviation safety, and paid particular attention to the airline in the early 1990s, when it experienced a series of accidents culminating in a 1994 Boeing 737 crash near Pittsburgh that killed 132 people. Had US Airways suffered a temporary spasm of bad luck, or was the problem more systematic? We now know that bad luck was the main culprit. The 737 crash (which killed more passengers than the others in the series combined) was caused by a subtle defect in the rudder controls, which could have struck any airline that operated the plane. Moreover, US Airways experts were instrumental in uncovering the defect before it could cause further tragedies.

Since 1994, US Airways has achieved a safety record that was not only flawless but magnificent.

Arnold Barnett in the Charlotte Observer, Oct. 31

What’s the Greatest Record in Sports History?

In 1987, Bruce Golden and Edward Wasil attempted to find the greatest record in sports by applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process to 22 records. At the time, AHP was emerging as a leading formula in addressing complex, multi-criteria problems. Through AHP, bias could be reduced, if not eliminated, and equations solved with elements of both mathematics and psychology. When Golden and Wasil’s calculations were complete, at the top of the legendary list sat Chamberlain’s 100-point game.

Since then, AHP has evolved and become more refined, while new sports records have been set.

- Pacific Standard Magazine, Oct. 29

What’s the Value of a Win in College Sports?

As the debate continues over whether college student-athletes should be paid for their on-field performances, a new study from Harvard Business School reveals just how much intercollegiate football and basketball programs contribute to a school’s bottom line.

The quantitative link between game day and payday is courtesy of Assistant Professor Doug J. Chung, who reviewed 117 schools with Division I football and basketball teams, matching athletic performance with revenue flow covering an 11-year period. The findings were jaw-dropping – winning just one more football game in a season, for example, could bump revenues by as much as $3 million for a high-powered program like Alabama or Michigan.

Chung details the correlation between wins on the field and wins for a school’s piggy bank in his paper, “How Much Is a Win Worth? An Application to Intercollegiate Athletics,” forthcoming in Management Science.

- Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Oct. 26

O.R. Analysis on Reducing Prison Population

Our analysis of data from the Los Angeles County jail system, which is the world’s largest, suggests that split sentencing is much more effective than pretrial release at making the best of the trade-off between the size of the jail population and public safety.

- Lawrence Wein in the New York Times, Oct. 23

Tweeting and Customer Service: No Good Deed...

While responding to complaints on social media can help develop a rapport with customers, it can also trigger new complaints, according to a study from professors at the University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon University and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, in China.

The study, which was published in Marketing Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), explains the side effect of customers coming to expect help and giving them more of a reason to speak up in the future.

“People complain on Twitter not just to vent their frustration,” said one researcher, Liye Ma. “They do that also in the hope of getting the company’s attention. Once they know the company is paying attention, they are more ready to complain the next time around.”

- Public Relations Strategist, Oct. 15

Best Definition of Analytics

What is analytics? INFORMS defines analytics as the scientific process of transforming data into insights for the purpose of making better decisions. Analytics is always an action-driven approach. There is always a decision to be made when we look at doing analytics. Coming from a data science background and working with a lot of statisticians, data scientists love to analyze data just for the sake of analyzing it. However, it is important to ensure our analysis is driving business action. Ultimately, we want analytics to empower an organization’s vision.

- Great Places to Work, April 15

Compiled by Barry List, associate director of communications for INFORMS. To share your news-making research, contact List at or 1-800-4INFORMs.