Syracuse University’s Falk College Announces First-of-its-Kind U.S. Undergraduate Degree in Sport Analytics

Market demand for data analysts exceeds national job growth average

With growing numbers of sport organizations embracing data analytics’ powerful role in understanding and prioritizing information to maintain a competitive advantage, there is increasing demand for sport analytics professionals to guide data-driven decision making. Syracuse University’s Falk College today announced a new Bachelor of Science (BS) in Sport Analytics—the first undergraduate program of its kind in the country established within a professional sport management program—to provide students with a deep understanding of math, statistics, research methodology, sport economics, database management, finance, and computer programming integral to sport analytics.

“Upon graduation, students will be prepared to think conceptually and analytically while applying these principles to real issues in sport organizations,” notes Professor Rodney Paul, a sports economist who led the collaborative development of the new degree. “Our program prepares students for a variety of different possible analytics career paths on the player evaluation side, business side, or both.”

The new degree incorporates a mandatory foreign language requirement to prepare students for the global sport industry. “Sport industry executives repeatedly tell us that students who are bilingual are highly sought after, especially in growth areas including South America, China and India,” says Falk College Dean Diane Lyden Murphy.

The announcement of the new degree follows a two-year process of analyzing changes in the industry, including in-depth interviews with senior-level sport executives and practitioners, in careful consultation with Falk College’s Sport Management Advisory Board made up of company presidents, founders, CEOs and other top-level executives.

According to Falk College benefactor and Sport Management Advisory Board member, David B. Falk, Founder and CEO, FAME, “analytics have become an invaluable tool not only in analyzing player performance but also in evaluating the effectiveness and reach of sports sponsorships and advertising. In the second decade of the 21stcentury, it is almost inconceivable that a sports organization could operate successfully or efficiently without a strong analytics capability.”

Adds Nick Carparelli, Jr., Senior Director, College Sports, UNDER ARMOUR® who sits on Falk College’s Sport Management Advisory Board, “the process of making sound business choices always starts with investigation and research. Effectively analyzing data, whether it be information about purchase intent from our consumers or a marketing evaluation on a prospective partner, is a critical next step in any decision making process. The amount of data and information available to us continues to grow, and the ability to process and understand that information is a necessary skill set in our industry.”

To date, several undergraduate sport management students have worked on analytics research projects through courses and participation in the Syracuse University Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club, which is advised by Dr. Paul. Dr. Paul and sport management students Matt Filippi ’15, Greg Ackerman ’15, and Zack Albright ’15 co-authored research that was a poster presentation at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Their paper, “The Effects of Atmospheric Conditions on Pitchers,” studied the impact of air density on pitch selection and pitcher performance. This research was also the focus of an article in ESPN The Magazine. Sports research by Dr. Paul and students has also been presented at the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Analytics conference and published in academic journals. Groups of students regularly participate in the Diamond Dollars Case Competitions in Phoenix and New York City.

“Increasingly, analytics are an integral part of many of our content offerings, both in the linear and digital space. As sports teams and leagues invest in analytics, it will create and drive content. The fact that Falk College is introducing a degree in analytics will accelerate the use and sophistication of analytics in all facets of the sports industry,” says John Wildhack, Executive Vice President, Programming and Production, ESPN.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job market for various data analyst disciplines is growing at 27 percent annually, far exceeding the national job growth average of 11 percent. The sport industry is the fifth largest economic sector in the U.S. economy, generating slightly less than $500 billion in 2014-15.

“The future growth of sports domestically and globally will be carefully measured through detailed and comprehensive analytic evaluation,” says Michael Veley, the Rhonda S. Falk Endowed Professor of Sport Management and Director of the Department of Sport Management. “This degree will prepare students with high math and computer programming aptitudes, who are passionate about working in a diverse and growing industry, better than any degree now made available in the sport management discipline. It will help transform the future of how sports business is conducted through data-driven decisions.”

Falk College’s offering in sport analytics is the newest addition in its academic portfolio of programs that includes sport management (BS), sport venue and event management (MS) and intercollegiate athletic advising and support (CAS).