Dr. Debby Stroman of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise is fired up about sports. Her passion for athletic competition is not unique in Chapel Hill, particularly as the college basketball season starts to heat up. The research she and her students are conducting is, however. 

The former University of Virginia basketball star and golf event entrepreneur has witnessed first hand the impact sports can have on communities, both culturally and economically. As a professor of sport entrepreneurship at UNC, she is dedicating this part of her career to understanding it. 
As the NFL season comes to a close and ACC basketball starts to heat up, anyone living in the Triangle knows that the area is a hot bed of sports mania, particularly college basketball. Dr. Stroman believes that this fervor is not only a good thing for the local culture—the pride that each local fan base takes in its preferred college team—but good for the economy as well. 
“Sport is very, very big business,” according to Stroman, who says that it’s $250 billion to $500 billion-a-year industry. In 2013, the NCAA accounted for nearly $913 million of that business, a large portion of it coming from men’s basketball and the annual tournament popularly known as March Madness. Stroman believes there’s a cut in that for tech and sports business entrepreneurs.
In mid-April, the university will host its second annual Basketball Analytics Summit with experts flying in from all over the country to discuss the science behind the Triangle’s favorite obsession. The numbers and analytics behind on-court performance will be discussed as well as the business of basketball. (Here’s ExitEvent’s story previewing the inaugural event last year.) The event is open to the public and students.
Ken Pomeroy, a pioneer in analytics on individual and team performance, is returning to the summit for the second year. NBA Director of Basketball Analytics Jason Rosenfeld will be there. Sacramento Kings analytics expert and UNC alumnus Dean Oliver will also speak. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla will emcee again. 
Part of the goal is to expose students to this expertise so they can solve problems in the sports world as business people and entrepreneurs. As with any big business, challenges are arising in the sports world. 
In the age of social media and rising ticket prices where every game is televised on flat screen TVs, sports executives are looking for innovative ways to keep fans engaged and coming to sporting events. This can be a challenge as younger generations of sports fans crave constant stimulation. Simply sitting and watching a game passively for two hours is no longer enough for many. 
“We know we have a choice. We can stay at home with our big HD and pause, so when you get them to the arena, how are you going to keep somebody’s attention?” Stroman says. “We see a merger between fantasy sports, technology, connectivity inside an arena.” 
Stroman’s goal is to keep the summit small enough to be engaging, so that students can get the most out of the experience. She has a team of around 20 undergraduate and graduate students working on the summit and dozens more will attend. 
“We have to make sure we have that student engagement so they have that real life experience,” says Stroman.

Sports and the Economy 

It is easy to see how restaurants, hotels and shops in cities like Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, which frequently play host to the ACC and NCAA basketball tournaments, benefit from the sport. However Stroman is also interested in what sports can do for areas of North Carolina further away from large population centers. 
Through her work at the Kenan Institute, Stroman is also studying how sports can impact rural areas of the state, particularly in eastern North Carolina. The institute has three pillars: government, private enterprise or business and universities and colleges. It combines the three to develop strategies to help the state and local city economies.
“We have a very robust and financially-sound Mecklenburg County, Orange County, Wake County,” Stroman says. “What about some of these other areas, these counties that are struggling?” 
Stroman says smaller events like marathons or soccer tournaments may not only be good for the morale of smaller communities, but could be a source of revenue for local businesses and governments. 
Chances are sports are important wherever you live in North Carolina, whether Raleigh or Rocky Mount, Greensboro or Greenville. It’s important to remember that the impact of the games reaches far beyond the court and the playing field. For the state’s economy, that’s a good thing.