Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"What Good is Math? An Answer for Jocks" by Patricia Cohen. New YorkTimes, 3 February 2001, pages A15, A17.

When the XFL football league was established recently, it needed a way toschedule its games. There were various constraints: the opening games shouldbe in warm-weather locations, some locations were unavailable for certaindates, teams should not have too many "away" games in a row, and so forth. Twomathematicians from the University of Vermont, Jeff Dinitz and Dalibor Froncek,who happen also to be football fans, knew they could use mathematics to come upwith an optimized schedule. Out of the blue, they telephoned the XFL withtheir idea. "I was surprised they were pretty receptive," Dinitz is quoted assaying. The two used tools from the mathematical area of combinatorics to dothe scheduling. A consultant for the league said that XFL plans to use themathematicians' scheduling in 2002 as well.

--- Allyn Jackson