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How Sports Analytics Is Changing Pro and College Sports

In professional and college sports alike, championship trophies elevate team prestige, raise revenues and boost other aspects of the organization.

With so much at stake, sports teams have turned to technology-driven data analytics to improve facets of the game, including player and coaching performance.

NBA's Raptors Evolve Into Winners on Court, Balance Sheet

Joe O'Connor of Toronto's Financial Post wrote a story titled 'It's all about winning': What an NBA title could do for the Raptors' bottom line" during the 2019 NBA Finals. The Toronto Raptors, in their first finals, were given little chance of defeating the four-time champion Golden State Warriors.

Despite the odds, the Raptors took the crown, and just as O'Connor's story suggests, in the year after their victory, the bottom line improved handsomely.

Beating Technology With Technology

The Raptors beat the Warriors at their own computer game. For years, Golden State has used the SportVU camera system to digitally measure player speed and a host of other determinants. Data comes from sensors placed in the ball and on the players. Analyzing the data helps improve passing and shot efficiency.

The Raptors use SportVU, too, but they added a transformative talent assessment — an analytics package built on IBM's Watson platform that produces a thorough player portrait. Combined with the team's scouting prowess, the Raptors assembled a championship squad of undervalued players beginning with the 2016 NBA draft. The unsung players drafted over that period produced major contributions during the championship 2018-2019 season.

Cashing in on the Results

Before the win, the Raptors were valued at $1.7 billion, No. 11 on Forbes' NBA team valuation list. After securing the championship, their 2020 value jumped 25% to $2.1 billion, or No. 10 on Forbes' list.

Although favored, the Warriors' runner-up finish didn't damage their fortunes. Before the finals, the team was the NBA's third most valuable with a Forbes tag of $3.5 billion. For 2020, Forbes put the number at $4.3 billion, up 23% and still No. 3 on the list.

College Sports Success Attracts Dollars and Students

Research by Doug J. Chung, a Harvard Business School assistant professor of marketing, found a connection between the number of games won by college football and basketball teams and an increase in undergraduate applications.

This link is called the "Flutie Effect," a reference to a 1984 football game between Boston College and the University of Miami. The game ended when BC's future NFL quarterback, Doug Flutie, threw a 48-yard game-winning "Hail Mary" touchdown pass that wide receiver Gerard Phelan improbably caught. In two years, applications to Boston College increased 30%.

Chung's research revealed other Flutie Effect benefits:

  • A single football win can produce as much as $3 million in revenue for top-tier schools.
  • Invitations to postseason bowls help increase revenue for lower-tier college programs.
  • College basketball can produce revenues ranging from $44 million to $123 million annually.

Colleges Go Pro in Sports Analytics

When it comes to improving sports performance, where the pros go, the colleges follow. Many successful — and would-be successful — college and university sports teams use the same technologies as professional teams, such as SportVU and a similar offering, ShotTracker.

Opportunities to learn sports analytics include the Master of Science in Sport Management online from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, which offers the subject as an elective.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Parkside's Master of Science in Sport Management online program.



Sources:

Financial Post: It's All About Winning": What an NBA Title Could Do for the Raptors' Bottom Line

NBA Communications: Stats LLC and NBA to make STATS SportVU Player Tracking Data Available to More Fans Than Ever Before

IBM: Toronto Raptors – A Cognitive Slam Dunk

College Sports: How Winning Impacts Revenue

Mass Moments: Doug Flutie Throws "Hail Mary" Pass

Bleacher Report: The Analytics Uprising Is Upon College Basketball: How It Could Alter the Sport

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