In my job at NBA TV/NBA.com/Turner Sports, I’ve settled into a role as the “fantasy basketball guy.” I’m paid to know stats and numbers…and if I am not smart enough to calculate the stats themselves, I’m at least responsible for knowing how to interpret those numbers and apply them to the NBA game. My job description: sound smart and educate the audience without losing them within the numbers.
Whether it be as the “fantasy guy” or “stats guy” on camera for NBA TV, creating regular fantasy basketball videos on NBA.com or doing research for talent on NBA TV, “nerding out” on basketball stats is good thing in my world.
So, when I came across Syracuse.com’s article a couple weeks ago saying that Syracuse University will be the first college to offer a sports analytics major, well…this proud broadcast journalism alum is thinking about re-enrolling to go after a second major…
How cool is that?
The story of “Moneyball” is hardly new. But its applications and innovations within sports analytics are continuously evolving. To that point, SU is now at the forefront when it comes to higher education in a budding industry.
It’s no secret that Syracuse University has been molding some of the best sports broadcasters in the business for decades. Deep down, sports broadcasters have been pouring over stats their whole lives. It’s only within the last couple years that there is now a fancy title for it: sports analytics. So, to house the country’s first sports analytics major in the same place as one of the best journalism schools in the country seems like a match made in heaven for those people whose Venn diagrams merge sports and journalism.
There are so many everyday applications for sports analytics. The New York Knicks use them to compute where Carmelo Anthony’s “sweet spots” on the floor are and how they can put him in those spots to try and maximize his productivity. Those infield shifts you see in baseball? Driven by analytical data. And analytics drive the projections that Joe Schmoe uses in selecting his daily fantasy rosters (assuming it is legal in the state in which Joe Schmoe resides).
To this point, if you were someone involved in analytics, you earned a statistics or math degree of some sort or an Ivy League type that was just naturally smart in everything. But now, thanks to the likes of former agent to Michael Jordan and SU alum, David Falk, Turner Sports president/SU alum (and my ultimate boss) David Levy and SU’s Sport Management director Michael Veley, the students of the sports analytics major will specifically be those with an interest in the sports industry.
While sports analytics won’t officially become a major on the SU hill until August 2017, classes on the subject are already being taught. The challenge will be how to take in-depth evaluations and computations and turn them into information that people can not only understand, but utilize in everyday situations. With Syracuse taking kids from all walks of life and all different interests and funneling them through this program, maybe that will make it easier to make information that has been too dense for most people to decipher and make it easier to apply.
And that’s not the say that sports analytics are the end-all-be-all in sports information. As SU sports analytics student Colby Connetta said in the Syracuse.com article, “We don’t argue that numbers are the only way to go…ultimately, the game is played on the field or on the ice. You still have to view it from the field rather than the guys in the front office who have the math and the numbers. You put it all together and try to make the best decisions…”
I’ve never had any formal analytics schooling. Everything I’ve learned about the industry has been through a personal interest to read and teach myself based on what other people already know.
Had a sports analytics program been available when I was at Syracuse, I would have salivated at the chance to combine a love for sports broadcasting with a love for sports statistics. I don’t want to speak for the others before and after me who attended SU with an interest in sports journalism. But, I would imagine many would echo my sentiments.
Sports analytics has given me a niche in the sports broadcasting world, a different perspective than most. Whereas many sports broadcasters will look first at what happens on the court to answer questions, I can take a mathematical angle to explain or predict certain results. I’m reminded of Ron Burgundy’s explanation, “It’s boring. But it’s part of my life.”
Now, because of the ingenuity and forward-thinking of the folks at SU, students can get an advanced look at analytics. Those who attend Syracuse with an interest in sports broadcasting, in my humble opinion, already had a leg up on their contemporaries. Combine that with sports analytics, and SU is making sure they stay at the top of the class in the sports industry.