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Center for Study of Sports in Society, Penn State Law host Mets GM Alderson

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Perhaps one of the more popular trends among the world of sport is the use of data analytics. The power of leveraging statistics and data to strategically make decisions, prepare for certain situations and re-tool an organization has become a constant study in the society of sports.

Working in concert with its theme of data analysis this year, Penn State’s Center for the Study of Sports in Society and Penn State Law have joined in an effort to bring one of baseball’s most strategic minds to the University Park campus.

On Nov. 6, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will visit campus to participate in two conversations. The first session, pertaining to the life of a sports lawyer, will begin at noon in 110 Katz Building. The second, focusing on how sports executives can use data effectively, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Struthers Auditorium, Room 110 of the Business Building.

Both events are open to Penn State students and faculty. More details can be found on the Center for the Study of Sports in Society’s website.

Alderson visits campus on the strength of the relationships among the faculty within the Center for the Study of Sports in Society, a cross-university disciplinary research center that was formally approved in the fall of 2016. As a culmination of eight years of work by university faculty, the center’s goal is to become a permanent leader in sports teaching, research and outreach.

The center’s executive chairman, Stephen Ross, professor of law and director of the Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research, believes the center’s ambition to be a cornerstone asset for research at Penn State can benefit many people.

“Our vision is to combine the insights from multiple disciplines to give students skills to understand and pursue opportunities in the sports industries and to contribute to public discourse on important issues about sports in society,” Ross said.

In attempts to connect students with industry executives that are capable of speaking to points of interest in sports in society, the center hosts a multitude of events throughout the academic year featuring speakers with strong business acumen, such as Alderson.

Ross, who has been writing and teaching about sports for over three decades, says over time he gets the chance to meet a lot of interesting people looking to speak about their professional experiences.

“Generally, smart executives enjoy the opportunity for give-and-take with faculty and students about their jobs. It allows them to give back, to think outside the box about interesting topics separate from the daily work, and many enjoy the chance to correct ‘ivory tower academics’ about how things work in the real world,” Ross said.

Alderson, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, worked as a partner in an elite boutique law firm in San Francisco before embarking on a career in sports. Thereafter, he had served as general counsel and later general manager of the Oakland A’s, executive vice president for business operations in the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and CEO of the San Diego Padres before his current posting with the Mets.

Matching the center’s data analysis theme this year, Alderson will speak on the usage of advanced statistics for organizational strategy.

“Most folks, when thinking about this topic, think about 'Moneyball.' Alderson played a critical role: he was the Oakland A’s GM who hired Billy Beane. In my view, drawing an analogy to aviation, Alderson is the Wright Brothers and Beane is Boeing,” Ross said. “In addition to specific comments about his experiences, Alderson will also be discussing how someone without formal statistical training makes decisions informed by data.”

The presence of a MLB general manager provides a huge opportunity for Penn State students interested in pursuing a career in sports research, management and law.

“Sandy is an engaging speaker with great stories to illustrate his points.  His vast experience in sport provides important perspectives for anyone interested in getting into the sports industry but equally any thoughtful sports fan,” Ross said. “His topic is highly relevant, both to sports and to broader social issues where data is critical to informed decisions.”

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