UConn Prof Wins $2.5 Million in Fantasy Football

Connecticut by the Numbers

University of Connecticut business professor David Bergman has won $2.5 million in a fantasy football competition by using some of the data analytics knowledge and techniques he teaches students. Bergman won a DraftKings Daily Fantasy Sports World Championship last weekend, selecting an entry that edged out 199 others chosen by top-ranked challengers, according to the University.

“I’m just shocked by the whole thing, but it’s very exciting,’’ Bergman told UConn Today. He has been a faculty member in the school’s Operations and Information Management Department in the School of Business for the past seven years. He currently teaches courses in Business Process Modeling and Data Management as well as Statistics in Business Analytics. “I’ve played fantasy sports since I was in college and it’s such a fun hobby.’’

In fantasy football, participants select a collection of nine NFL players and try to outscore the other opponents’ picks. Bergman has indicated that part of his success was in selecting three players outside the typical tournament favorites, allowing him to distinguish his entry and rise through the ranks.

Fantasy sports competition is a popular pursuit that also interests the data analytics community, Bergman explains. Researchers in the field recently published an article in Management Science, a leading journal, titled, “How to Play Fantasy Sports Strategically (And Win).’’ And Bergman has been published previously.

In 2017, his research article titled “Surviving a National Football League Survivor Pool,’’ with co-author Jason Imbrogno of the University of North Alabama, appeared in the journal Operations Research.

At that time, he explained that “My main body of research lies in computational optimization, where I develop algorithms that assist with automated decision making. The decision-making process in a survival pool is an example of a sequential stochastic assignment problem. What this means is that at any given point, you, as the decision maker, must make a choice which limits and/or impacts what choices are available later on.”

He added that “Optimization is the crux of my research. I focus on identifying innovative ways in which we can automate decision making, both in business and in other exciting, and surprising, application areas. I am confident that in the future we’re going to see a lot of research in this direction, namely the development of data-driven predictive-model-based optimization.”

A Certified Analytics Professional, Bergman previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs.

“To me, it’s a very cool math problem,’’ Bergman said of his latest efforts that resulted in substantial monetary success. “Top-ranked players might use a combination of game theory, predictive modeling, machine learning and optimization for selecting entries. Of course, on any particular day, you’re also flipping a coin; there’s always luck involved.’’

The University indicated that Bergman competes in fantasy sports in his personal time away from work and using his own resources. He reportedly tells students that if they pursue a career as an analytics professional, they shouldn’t do it in a silo. A lifelong football fan, urges them to pursue a domain that they’re knowledgeable in and excited about, UConn Today reported.

Bergman excels in both research and teaching of data science and business analytics, and has published articles on data-driven optimization and sports analytics in top journals. He has also analyzed the methods used by a Jeopardy! game show winner in 2019.

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