sports data analytics
Higher Ed

NJIT Offers New Concentration in Sports Data Analytics

New Jersey Institute of Technology has announced it is offering an academic concentration in business and sports data analytics beginning in fall 2024.

The concentration will be offered through NJIT’s Martin Tuchman School of Management, where undergraduates will learn the data science behind the multibillion-dollar industry, which is as big in metropolitan New York as anywhere in the world. North Jersey alone is home to five professional teams and four Division I college programs, including the 17 teams fielded by NJIT.

Analytics courses are already taught in the existing MTSM concentrations for accounting systems, finance, innovation/entrepreneurship, management information systems and marketing. “We wanted to create a business and sports analytics option, pulling in the analytics courses, as well as creating two new courses,” explained MTSM Dean Oya Tukel.

In addition, “We wanted to make these analytics courses a little bit more AI-enabled because that’s the way it goes. Artificial intelligence is a smart tool that helps you with analytics. Now your job is going to be more of not doing number crunching and using Excel, but more of the interpretation and insights into the data for decision-making,” Tukel said. “It becomes much more important today for a business student than actually running the numbers and the spreadsheets because AI will be able to do that for us. I mean, it’s there already.”

Even before the new concentration, NJIT students embraced sports data. Alumna Ivana Seric was a data scientist for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and now is a senior product scientist at Zelus Analytics, which works across multiple sports. Also, three students placed second in a national hackathon that tackled NBA problems and graduate students created a sports-inspired data science club. What’s more, NJIT sports teams use data analytics with help from student interns, Director of Athletics Lenny Kaplan said.

This foundation helped inspire Tukel to create the new concentration. She’s a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, having spent 27 years at Cleveland State University — spanning both of Lebron James’ stints as a Cavs superstar — before joining NJIT in 2019. She also helped the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, working as a consultant on their supply chain. And as an avid hiker, she uses popular data-centric mobile apps like AllTrails and Strava.

Kaplan is excited about the edge that a formal data analytics effort can bring to the NJIT Highlanders.

“We don’t have the money to out-recruit or out-build other programs in many cases. And that’s okay because everybody finds their spot and that’s what they do,” Kaplan said. “We use analytics in certain ways, just not as in-depth.

“I use biomedical data that we glean from Polar heart monitors, from Whoop sleep bracelets, from what’s called EliteForm technology, [which is] cameras on platforms. It talks about torque and speed, and you know how you’re working out,” Kaplan added.

Students help a strength coach crunch the data and share any insights with coaches. “All you need is that one point of information that the coaches buy into, to make a switch in your strategy, that wins a game,” Kaplan noted.

“I think all of that will be great opportunities that we can come up with for class assignments, where they can observe the teams and the games, collect data and analyze it,” Tukel said. “Everybody has an interest in sports. So, my students can use that as an advantage to go into data analytics in those kinds of organizations.”

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