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Pa. profs have fantasy football plan

DAVE BARTH
(Carlisle) Sentinel (TNS)
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A pair of Shippensburg University math professors have come up with a way to compete against the best, for those with an interest in fantasy football but who may have never played the virtual sport in their life.

Dave Kennedy and Ben Galluzzo won $10,000 from a local tech startup program, TechCelerator, for their algorithm and business plan that the two had come up with simply as a hobby.

“It got started really when Ben talked me into playing fantasy football, because he used to play and I didn’t,” Kennedy said. “I decided to join him, and as soon as I did, I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of math here.’”

“At some point about a year-and-a-half ago I said to Ben, ‘It’s reached the point where when I say we have to go public and sell this thing, I’m not kidding anymore.’”

Working out of their kitchens and basements, Kennedy and Galluzzo developed an algorithm that they hoped would help first-time and also experienced players draft the perfect lineup at the beginning of the fantasy season.

DraftHog.com is set to hit the market early in the summer, in time for fantasy season — the name suggests that customers can ‘hog’ as much talent as possible in their fantasy draft.

The company, an LLC named MathEdge Fantasy Sports, includes the ‘Draft Hog’ product which includes a fully-customizable database that takes into account popular player rankings.

“What tends to happen is, people know who they’re going to pick in the first two or three rounds, but then it starts to get a little hazy,” Galluzzo said in partial explanation of what the service offers. “You can’t keep track of who all were picked, and it starts to get muddled.”

Kennedy and Galluzzo spent months gathering data in Excel spreadsheets and doing market research that often required paying visits to local watering holes during football games.

The pair recently added two more members to their team — tech-savvy Chris Mowers of Carlisle and Dan Kling of Lancaster — who function as programmers and are assisting in website development.

Since the algorithm was created, Draft Hog has already seen some success in its trial stages this past football season.

“I had four leagues that I drafted using Draft Hog, and all four made the playoffs,” Kennedy said. “Two of them ended up with a championship. And then I have four kids, and each of them had a Draft Hog team, and two of them made the playoffs.”

Both Kennedy and Galluzzo are looking for ways to improve those already impressive numbers, including expanding the product to assist customers in retooling their lineups during the season in the case of injured or under-performing athletes.

However, the goal right now is to get those interested in fantasy sports started with a successful draft, and once they’ve seen how it works they’ll have a better idea of what to look for when replacing athletes in their lineups.

“A lot of times (people start playing) because they have family and friends who are playing, and it’s not just that they want to go along for the ride, they want to win,” Galluzzo said. “We’ve talked to first-time players, including women who want to beat their boyfriends or friends, and their level of competitiveness is very high.”

The MathEdge founders also did a heat-to-head competition against an award-winning company that offers similar services, Draftsharks, and according to Galluzzo, they fared pretty well.

“We were mostly interested in how it worked, so we did a head-to-head with them, where we used their rankings and our tool versus their tool with their rankings, to give all of the advantage to them,” He said. “We first of all thought we came out on top in picking players, but we also came out on top in the league.”

The biggest boost that the young company has had thus far, though, was attending the TechCelerator program. The company’s partners found out a lot about the business side of a tech-related firm, and winning the cash prize at the end was a huge boost for the confidence and pocketbooks of the MathEdge members.

“When we went into that competition, I really considered us the underdog — I had us seeded third (out of four),” Kennedy said. “Some of those companies were a little bit more established, had customers already, and we were just this new website. When they decided to give the prize to us, it was just kind of a validation. We thought, ‘Hey, good, we’re not the only ones who think we might be onto something.’”

So for those looking to improve their position in the fantasy football leaderboards this fall, DraftHog.com has you covered.

And according to Galluzzo, it’s available for about the cost of a couple of fantasy football magazines.