Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Business Course Turns UC Students into Sports Analysts

Published:
Saturday, April 12, 2014 9:39 AM
Popular Sports by the Numbers uses fantasy football, guest speakers to teach concepts.

Curious sports fanatics like Anthony Grethel, BBA ’13, wanted to know who is the best NFL quarterback? Should more football coaches go for a fourth-down play? Does home field advantage exist?

When the opportunity arose to unite his love of sports with his economics major, he played ball, enrolling in a Sports By The Numbers course taught in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business that uses simple math for captivating insight into sports decision-making.

“I signed up for the course knowing that the combination of statistics and sports would be intriguing for me,” says Grethel, one of 118 students enrolled in the new course.

With sports data collection and analysis now part of any game, says Michael Magazine, professor and Ohio Eminent Scholar who teaches the course in the Lindner College of Business’ Department of Operations, Business Analytics and Information Systems, more athletic teams aim to keep one step ahead of the competition by turning to the power of data analysis for a performance advantage.

“This course demonstrates the power of analytics and its effect on sports decision-making,” Magazine says of the growing analytics field that also spills over into politics, healthcare, business and more.

With basic algebra, the course (open to all UC majors) uses popular readings of Moneyball and Scorecasting, guest speakers and fantasy football to take students on their own journey of analytical problem-solving and critical thinking.

For a behind-the-scene understanding of the work that goes into game analysis, UC baseball coach Brian Cleary and Lindner College of Business alum Paul Bessire, BBA ’04, MS-QA ’05, president and founder of PredictionMachine.com, visited the class to probe various plays and specific sports records. Geoff Smith, president and founder of LP Enterprise, LLC, will be a guest speaker October 30, 2012. Smith, analytics consultant to the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL, will give an overview on how the Bengals use statistics and analytics to prepare for the draft. Planned speakers for Sports by the Numbers (Course: BANA 1050, offered 11AM-12:20PM Tuesdays and Thursdays) next semester in January include a Cincinnati Reds representative and a sports agent.

As part of the course, students use analytics to explore some of the greatest sports records—Pete Rose’s 4,256 hit record, Jack Nicklaus’ six Master’s wins, Celtics eight NBA championships, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and others—to compare records in distinctive sports and different eras.

Students are also required to complete a project. Grethel has been analyzing correlations and variations among nine fantasy football leagues formed by his class peers.

“I’m looking into the significance of top positional players and if their cumulative numbers have any regard for their team’s overall success during the season,” Grethel says. “There’s a lot of analysis involved with identifying unique or common patterns that resulted from specific events, such as where you placed in the draft, or how many free agent acquisitions have been made.”

In the spring, Magazine and Bessire will co-teach a three-week course on Bracketology that centers on March Madness college basketball tournament. The Bracketology course also promises to be a popular draw.

Grethel says he would entertain taking Bracketology because Sports by the Numbers is fun.

“I love to experiment and this class provided a lot of unique assignments and allowed for a way to study things that most classes don’t give you the time to do,” he says.