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Matt Millen Joins John Urschel in Lineup for Penn State Sports Analytics Conference

by on April 11, 2018 8:00 AM

The roster for this week's Penn State Sports Analytics Conference just got deeper.

Nittany Lion football great and Big Ten Network broadcaster Matt Millen was added to the conference's lineup on Tuesday.

Millen joins another former Penn State football player, John Urschel, on the conference program, sponsored by the Penn State Center for the Study of Sports in Society.

"This," said conference director Dr. Andy Wiesner, who has taught sports statistics and data analytics in sports journalism courses at Penn State, "must be the feeling a coach gets when the top recruit commits to their program."

Urschel, who retired from the NFL's Baltimore Ravens prior to the 2017 season and is now a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at MIT, kicks off the conference with a keynote address on "The Intersection of Mathematics and Sports," at 7 p.m. Thursday at The State Theatre.

Millen, who won four Super Bowl rings as an NFL player, knows he can't match Urschel's prowess with numbers. But he is looking forward to taking on Urschel in another arena.

"Tell John that I think I can take him in an arm wrestling match," laughed Millen, who prioir to the Big Ten Network worked as a broadcaster for Fox, ESPN and Westwood One after a 12-year NFL career and a stint as GM of the Detroit Lions.

Millen will appear at the conference on Friday with Marty Aronoff, a pioneer in the use of sports statistics in broadcasting, and behind-the-scenes hockey savant Ben Bouma on a "Data Use in Sports Journalism/Broadcasting" panel. All three are Penn State alumni; Bouma, who is working the NHL playoffs for NBC, will appear via Skype.

Brian Tripp, the voice of Penn State ice hockey and baseball, will moderate the panel, which begins at 2:30 p.m. in Ballroom C at the Nittany Lion Inn on campus. The conference will be held all day Friday. All events, including Urschel's appearance at The State Theatre, are free and open to both town and gown.

"When we first thought of holding this conference and who could serve as keynote speaker, the first person considered was John. He was target 1 and 1A," said Wiesner. "Beyond his obvious ties to Penn State, his academic background fits nicely with the overall theme of the conference, i.e. sport research. The fact that he readily accepted our invitation was flattering, and has made securing the other guests that much easier as they are looking forward to meeting John."

"As to Matt, we wanted to include a few panelists with ties to Penn State. When we came up with discussion topics, one of which was sports broadcasting, Matt was an obvious choice.  Similar to John, he has strong ties to Penn State, and is a national name in the broadcast business. We were aware that his schedule was tight and couldn't commit immediately, but we kept the spot open just in case. So we didn't ask anyone else, and to our good fortune Matt was recently able to commit."


Millen adds Penn State star power to an already deep conference lineup, which features analytics professionals from the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Mets, Philadelphia 76ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Phillies, the University of Michigan and Columbia Business School, and numerous colleges and divisions at Penn State.

Conference panel topics include concussion research (8:30 a.m.), gender disparity in sports analytics (1:15 p.m.) and research in sports technology (3:45 p.m.). For a complete conference schedule of events, click here.

The conference is in its second year. In 2017, the Center's program feature topic was ethics in sport. Steve Ross, a law professor at University Park, and director of the Penn State Institute for Sports, Law, Policy and Research, is the center’s executive director. Mark Dyreson, a noted sports historian and professor of kinesiology, is the center’s director for programs and research.

"The conference reflects one of the Center's missions, which is to increase interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and students," said Wiesner. "If you review the program topics and guests, you will find a variety of colleges represented, such as health and human development, engineering, science, communications, medicine and business. In addition, we'll received a lot of support as part of our partnership with Penn State intercollegiate athletics. There will something for practically everyone interested in sports.

"All the topics are exciting, but the one that really has my interest is the gender disparity in sports analytics. The women serving on this panel — from the Steelers, Sixers and the Phillies — will discuss the hurdles they faced, and continue to face, in a male-dominated business. The panel includes Penn State grad Melanie Harris, who previously worked at Nike before joining the Steelers."

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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