New Certificate Program Will Deliver Competitive Edge for Undergrads Pursuing Sports Analytics Careers

In America, the sports industry is estimated to be worth more than $500 billion. It’s also big business in Charlotte, where professional, collegiate and amateur sports and recreation inject more than $2 billion into the economy.

As data analysis has become essential to professional and college sports, UNC Charlotte has emerged as a leader in the field. The U.S. Labor Department projects a 30% increase for statisticians through 2030; median wages for 2020 were nearly $90,000.

To prepare students for sports analytics careers, the University’s School for Data Science and College of Health and Human Services are launching an undergraduate Certificate in Sports Analytics. The proposed 12-credit hour undergraduate Certificate in Sports Analytics is pending final approval from the U.S. Department of Education; however, students from any major can begin enrolling in the courses for spring 2022.

David Bellar, chair of the Department of Applied Physiology, Health, and Clinical Sciences, and Doug Hague, executive director of the School of Data Science, will oversee the program’s administration. They note Charlotte’s burgeoning sports and recreation industry will need qualified data analysts.

“Charlotte’s professional sports franchises, the Panthers, Hornets, Checkers, Knights and Charlotte FC, utilize data to not only gauge and improve athletes’ performance but to inform decisions related to marketing and merchandising. The region’s motorsports teams also rely heavily on data analytics,” said Bellar and Hague. “Our undergraduate Certificate in Sports Analytics will prepare students in multiple fields to be successful not only in Charlotte but nationwide.”

John Tobias ’94 returned to UNC Charlotte two years ago to teach sports analytics. A senior analytical statistician with ESPN, he was among the first in the country to apply analytics in sports television. His first class included 10 students. Interest has skyrocketed — and now he teaches two sections of sports analytics and one in sports business analytics; total enrollment this fall for the three courses maxed out at 120 students.

“Advanced stats and analytics in the sports world are here to stay,” said Tobias. “As the field continues to develop as an industry standard among professional sports and elite collegiate athletics programs, this certificate will help provide UNC Charlotte students with a very competitive edge.”

In spring 2021, the Charlotte 49ers Athletics Department, the School of Data Science and the Applied Physiology, Health, and Clinical Sciences Department announced a competitive sports analytics internship program for Charlotte’s 18 athletics programs. Currently, 32 student interns are working eight to 10 hours per week to provide sports data analysis for the various teams.

About the School of Data Science

UNC Charlotte’s School of Data Science (SDS), the first in the Carolinas, is an interdisciplinary unit that is supported by the Academic Affairs’ Office of the Provost, the College of Computing and Informatics, the Belk College of Business, the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the William States Lee College of Engineering. SDS brings academia and industry together to turn data into knowledge and knowledge into insight to see what’s possible in the digital age.

About the Department of Applied Physiology, Health, and Clinical Sciences

The mission of the UNC Charlotte Department of Applied Physiology, Health, and Clinical Sciences is to enhance lifelong optimal health in diverse populations through scholarly research, teaching and community engagement.

Photo: Students Joe Wiens, Kimberly Mays and Ryan Carrier, 49ers tight end, are gaining practical experience providing data analyses for Charlotte 49ers football through an internship program offered by the School of Data Science and the Applied Physiology, Health, and Clinical Sciences Department in partnership with the Athletics Department.