What your college course schedule and the NFL have in common

Course schedules, football schedules

With the NFL season underway, some university schedule-makers are wondering: how did they come up with that schedule?

They hired a professor.

In October 2018, the NFL made a three-year research grant to a team at the University of Buffalo, led by professor Mark Karwan, to provide year-round method development and schedule testing. According to Karwan, “This is a field I’ve worked in for 46 years, including 43 as a professor. I've worked on very difficult problems that take more than 12 hours on the supercomputer to solve. And this is by far the hardest any of us have ever seen.”

With 32 teams playing 16 times over the course of 17 weeks, Karwan calculates there are more possible NFL schedules (10300) than there are atoms in the universe (1080). According to the NFL, “It takes hundreds of computers in a secure room to produce thousands of possible schedules — a process that sets the stage for the schedule makers to begin the arduous task of picking the best possible one.”

Your school may have 100+ courses, 100+ professors, 100+ classrooms, and thousands of students. Just like the NFL schedule, there are more possible university course schedules than there are atoms in the universe. No wonder making the schedule is such a difficult job! And that’s why so many schools adopt ofCourse to make the job easier — even without the staffing or budget of the NFL.

Chris McGrath

Chris is the Creative Director at ofCourse.

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