MBA winning team

Score! TCU MBAs Win First Place in MIT Sloan First Pitch Sports Competition

Their creative virtual-reality approach to a major sports organization’s audience challenge set them up for a perfect goal to win the day. 

March 06,  2017

By Elaine Cole

The competition was tough: Dartmouth. Texas. TCU.

The list of past winners was impressive: Harvard. Chicago. MIT. Dartmouth. McGill.

But when it came time to elevate the game, TCU MBA Horned Frogs Mitch Howe, Paige Sabo and Jon Gulbransen scored big with their insights and creativity. 

Out of all the graduate business schools in the world, only three made it into the finals of the First Pitch Case Competition held during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, March 3-4, 2017.

Making the final found “is no small feat, as it was an extremely competitive field,” said competition organizer Ekow Essel.

The three final teams competed in front of judges at the conference in Boston.

TCU took first, Dartmouth was second and Texas was third based on analytical ability, decision-making, creativity, thoughtfulness of recommendations and delivery.  

Winning was “a dream come true,” said Mitch Howe, who has followed the Sports Analytics Conference for 10 years since his days as a college basketball player and assistant coach.

The teams were tasked with analyzing and suggesting solutions for a sports media company whose main revenue source – TV for a single sports franchise – was drying up.

The TCU MBA team focused on the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights with a strategy to roll out a virtual reality game distribution model to allow Golden Knights fans to be part of every game. They also suggested a partnership with WaitTime to enhance the in-arena fan experience.

“Being more creative and less reliant on simply finding and analyzing numbers won us points with the judges,” Mitch said. “We were well prepared to answer qualitative questions in the Q&A, instead of struggling to defend quantitative assumptions.”

“We spent a lot of time thinking and discussing ideas as a team, and we pulled from our sports backgrounds,” said Paige, who previously worked for an NFL/PGA sports agency. Jon was a minor league baseball player and Mitch played and coached college basketball.

“We realized that we had great winning potential,” Paige said.

Jon said the win represents the quality of their TCU MBA education. “We put together a comprehensive solution that encompassed all the stakeholders using our critical thinking skills, and we confidently presented to a room of bright, experienced professionals, just as we do on a regular basis at TCU,” he said. “I believe it was apparent to the judges that we enjoyed the process and believed in our solution.”

“The win was validation for me that I made the right choice in getting my MBA and coming to TCU Neeley,” Mitch said. “The support that Jon, Paige and I received from our classmates and the TCU Neeley staff has been inspiring. Before I came to TCU I never would have thought it possible to even present at the conference. Now? It’s probably the single coolest experience I’ve had.”