Another issue facing the industry is the “jocks vs. geeks” stereotype in which those who lead the business of sports have different skills, backgrounds and attitudes toward math and science than those who analyze the data.

“There can be insufficient communication in both directions,” Schrader said. “The jocks need help integrating the data, building the systems and identifying how new data sources can augment their decision-making, while the geeks need to learn the working vocabulary to become part of the team.”

Lanham recalls similar sentiments shared by Chuck Bower in last semester’s course.

“Chuck told the students a story of when he was sitting in a room with the head coach of an NFL team demonstrating the capabilities of ZEUS. The coach did not deny the accuracy of the data-based play recommendations, but stated that at the end of the day, he alone must follow accepted play calling decisions because the media and owner would kill him if a non-traditional play was called and did not go in his favor during a critical junction in the game.”

Despite those challenges, the “big data” phenomenon in sports has created a lucrative market for students who know business analytics. “Collectively, sports teams invested $125 million in analytics in 2014, and some studies say it could reach $4.7 billion by 2021,” said Schrader.

“I expect there are Krannert students who are very interested in landing a job in sports,” adds Lanham. “The best way to do that is to work on a project that uses data to examine a sports-related problem. We have a plethora of data sources that are just waiting to be combined, cleaned and analyzed.”

Fields of learning

Students outside of Krannert with an interest in the business of sports can also get in the game thanks to a course taught by former Purdue vice president Morgan Burke and Rick Cosier, Leeds Professor of Management and dean emeritus of the Krannert School.

Rick Cosier and Morgan Burke

Former Krannert dean Rick Cosier (left) and Morgan Burke, Purdue's vice president of intercollegiate athletics. (Photo by Mark Simons)

The duo will once again offer Intercollegiate Athletics as a Business (MGMT 59000) to graduate students and seniors from all colleges/schools on the West Lafayette campus in the fall 2017 semester. 

Now in its sixth year, this popular course has featured speakers including Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Big Ten Network CEO Mark Silverman, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, Purdue President Emeritus Martin Jischke and NCAA Executive Vice President Oliver Luck. 

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