Unique degree prepares IUPUI students for careers in sports analytics

  • Oct. 21, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INDIANAPOLIS -- The IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management and School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis have developed the first integrated degree program that will prepare students for in-demand jobs in the field of sports analytics.

Made famous by the book and Hollywood film "Moneyball," about the Oakland Athletics general manager who assembled a baseball team on a slim budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players, the field of sports analytics is flourishing.

"We've seen data-analytics jobs spark from 'Moneyball,' from player-analytics roles to data roles in the front office," said Buffy Filippell, president of TeamWork Online, a networking organization for sports-related careers. "It's a growing area."

Under the integrated degree program, students will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in tourism, convention and event management with a sports-management emphasis and a master's in informatics with a specialization in sports analytics.

Students will be able to earn both the bachelor's and the master's in five years instead of six, getting an accelerated start to their careers.

As described in "Moneyball," one area of sports analytics focuses on examining performance statistics over time to identify unique trends or key success factors.

A second area studies data about fans and customers to better serve them and develop products of interest.

One career path involves working with a professional sports organization or for an athletic department in a large university, creating sales and marketing strategies from the data those organizations collect about their customers, said David Pierce, an assistant professor who teaches sales management in sport and financial principles in sport in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management.

As they seek employees who can turn that data into a revenue-generating strategy, organizations have learned they need employees who understand data analytics as well as traditional sports sales and marketing, Pierce said.

"Organizations are investing in customer-relationship management systems to collect this information, and they are beginning to hire significant numbers of people who can analyze all that data," Pierce said. "They want employees who know how to get behind the scenes, run the technology and the analysis, and translate it in ways their marketing and sales staff can use."

The five-year integrated BS/MS program will provide a seamless integration of broad-level sport-management background in the B.S. program, followed by acquiring a deeper application-level understanding in sports analytics during the M.S. coursework, said Karl MacDorman, associate dean of academic affairs and an associate professor of human-computer interaction.

"The accelerated five-year degree isn't designed to turn students into computer technologists," MacDorman said. "We want them to be able to follow their passion about sports, and informatics can help them do that."

Similar programs are being developed between the School of Informatics and Computing and other schools that will allow students in other programs -- including health and rehabilitation science, public health, business, public affairs, science, physical education and tourism management, philanthropy, and law -- to complete undergraduate degrees in their respective schools in four years and then complete an informatics master's degree in one year.

Richard Schneider