Creating the NFL Schedule with Mathematical Optimization

Webinar Recording

Watch this short webinar to learn about how the NFL uses mathematical optimization to solve one of the most challenging scheduling problems in existence.

Webinar Summary

Discover how the NFL uses mathematical optimization to solve one of the hardest scheduling problems in existence. At first glance, the NFL’s scheduling problem seems simple: 5 people have 12 weeks to schedule 256 games over the course of a 17-week season. That might seem like plenty of planning time for seemingly few decisions, but – when you actually work it out – the number of possible schedules is well into the quadrillions. Making the problem particularly hard is the necessary inclusion of thousands of constraints addressing stadium availability, travel considerations, competitive equity, and television viewership.

In 2013, the NFL began using Gurobi’s mathematical optimization solver to tackle this incredibly complex scheduling problem. With mathematical optimization, NFL planners can generate and analyze more than 50,000 feasible schedules despite adding more constraints to the process every year. Now – instead of spending months manually creating a single feasible schedule – the NFL planners can focus on evaluating and comparing completed schedules to determine which should be selected as the final schedule.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • How the NFL uses mathematical optimization to solve one of the most challenging scheduling problems in existence.
  • How the NFL switched from a linear to a parallel approach to optimization.

Presenter

Mike North, VP of Broadcast Planning & Scheduling for the NFL

Michael North is the Vice President of NFL Broadcast Planning & Scheduling.

Michael North is in his 25th season with the NFL and his 22nd in the Broadcasting Department where he is part of the team that creates the playing schedule each season. North works closely with the 32 Clubs, network television partners, stadium operators, and the NFL’s International team while managing the relationships with software and hardware vendors, as well as mixed integer programming, combinatorial optimization, and predictive analytics experts, in an effort to help search through millions of permutations in pursuit of the one magical, mythical, “perfect” NFL schedule each season that satisfies all the teams and television networks. A 1992 graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in computer science, Mike lives with his artist wife, three teenage sons, two dogs, and a turtle in Westchester County, NY, tantalizingly close to Hudson National Golf Club.

Presented Materials

You can download the slides presented in this webinar here.