Debby Stroman UNC Sports Business

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Debby Stroman believes she can channel North Carolina's energy and enthusiasm around basketball and sports to help local entrepreneurs create new businesses in sports analytics, data, marketing and sales.

Her big vision is to open a center of sports business and analytics at UNC by 2017, and make our state a national leader in merging sports and business. 

Credit: Kenan Institute
Stroman is already building momentum with her now annual Basketball Analytics Summit, kicking off tomorrow at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and a student statistical analytics team called Z-Stat, now performing pitching analysis for the Houston Astros. This fall, she'll introduce a sports analytics course to the business school. And in October, she'll bring Sports Tank to UNC. 

The pitch event, co-sponsored with Charlotte-based TPG Sports Group and based off the popular ABC television show "Shark Tank", is for students and community entrepreneurs building businesses around sports.

Stroman explains all her activities as "anything I can do to be a part of creating and promoting sport ventures at UNC, in the Triangle and the state of North Carolina." She's especially interested in promoting sport-related careers to students.

"You don't have to have a star jump shot or throwing arm," she says. "Analytics allows anybody who appreciates sport to participate. Math, statistics and science are part of this career path."

Stroman's personal connections, built through her own basketball and sports marketing careers, are a key way she'll accomplish her goals. The lineup at the summit is evidence of her network. Also clear is that the dynamics of sports are changing fast due to technology and big data, in many ways leveling the playing field between teams and companies big and small. Here are some highlights of the event:

Keynoting the summit tomorrow afternoon is ESPN President and Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks John Skipper, who previously managed content for the company and served as general manager of ESPN Magazine. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and is a native of Lexington, NC. And Saturday's keynote is Carol Stiffvice president of content programming and development for espnW, the network's effort to promote and feature women in sports.

Basketball Analytics Summit speakers 2015
John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, and Carol Stiff, vice president of content programming and development for espnW, are keynote speakers at the 2015 Basketball Analytics Summit at UNC.
Several startups will be in attendance, including Durham's own Automated Insights, which works with Yahoo! Sports and The Associated Press to turn sports statistics and earnings reports into narrative stories in a matter of seconds. Other startups include Lean Basketball Analytics, an Atlanta-based lineup analysis software company, and Fusionetics, a Georgia startup that helps predict and prevent injury and improve human performance for top professional and collegiate teams. 

Learn Fresh of Rhode Island is the creator of NBA Math Hoops, a math tool for elementary and middle school students centered around basketball. Catapult Sports of Australia developed GPS tracking wearable devices specifically for sports teams.

There's also the heads of analytics for the San Antonio Spurs, Notre Dame Basketball, the University of Virginia and the Sacramento Kings (former ESPN sports analytics director Dean Oliver), Google's analyst for ticketing and live events and sports stat analysis guru Ken Pomeroy. A member of SAP's sports and entertainment group will talk about its partnership with Duke University Basketball around analytics.

Besides Skipper and Stiff, ESPN is sending college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla and Kirk Goldsberry, a staff writer at Grantland.

The branding and sponsorship, marketing and ticketing sides of sports are represented too—they use data to understand the fan side of sports. And the event begins and ends with a student sports analytics competition. Students can submit papers related to some theory or analysis related to the sport of basketball. The winners will be announced Saturday afternoon, and their papers will be submitted to the Journal of Sports Analytics.

Tickets are still available for the summit, which kicks off Friday at 1 p.m. and concludes Saturday afternoon. ExitEvent and UNC journalism students will also film portions of the event, and we'll publish those videos in coming days.