Baylor Data Scientists Partner on National Science Foundation Grant to Use Sports Analytics to Prepare Next Generation of Data Science Professionals

December 8, 2022

SCORE collaboration unites five universities with sports industry partners to introduce data science applications through sports


 Baylor University data scientists along with colleagues from four other universities have been awarded one of the largest National Science Foundation grants to explore new approaches to engage and prepare the next generation of data scientists through sports analytics.

The four-year $1.1 million grant brings together educators from Baylor, lead awardee Carnegie Mellon University, St. Lawrence University, the University of Pittsburgh and the United States Military Academy for SCORE, a project that is building a sustainable national network for developing and disseminating Sports Content for Outreach, Research and Education in data science.

The Baylor hub is led by faculty in the Department of Statistical Science, including SCORE’s co-principal investigator Rod Sturdivant, Ph.D., associate professor of statistical science and director of Baylor’s Statistical Consulting Center; Michael Gallaugher, Ph.D., assistant professor of statistical science; and Joshua Patrick, Ph.D., lecturer of statistical science. Serving as the grant’s evaluator is Grant Morgan, Ph.D., associate dean for research and professor of educational psychology in the Baylor School of Education.

Partners from more than 70 sports teams and leagues have signed on as part of the national network working with educators to create authentic modules that introduce foundational data science topics via sports applications, including sports data, computer code and example problems. All materials will be freely accessible to students and faculty through Carnegie Mellon’s Integrated Statistics Learning Environment (ISLE).

Well-known organizations and leaders like ESPN, the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have offered their support to the program. Resources are geared towards undergraduate students and will cover a wide array of men’s and women’s sports, including baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, cricket and much more.

For Sturdivant, SCORE is an exciting project for creating broad interest in the rapidly advancing, interdisciplinary field of data sciences. The statistical sciences department offers multiple undergraduate and graduate programs and recently added a sports analytics concentration to its B.S. degree in statistics.

“Statistics is one of the fastest-growing STEM majors in the United States,” Sturdivant said. “We believe these opportunities through Baylor’s partnership with the SCORE network will attract students who might not have been interested in statistics and data science as a career path.”

Industry partners will lead the development of each module with guidance from a team of expert educators, showcasing the multiple steps for working with data, from data collection to building and assessing appropriate models to communicating the results. Through this work, educators will better understand skills and approaches used by sports analytics professionals, including access to case studies.

“Students will learn to ‘think with data’ by using real-world, unstructured datasets,” Sturdivant said.

Evaluation and knowledge generation will focus on exploring three key ideas: 1) incorporating industry partners into the creation of education materials at scale, 2) exploring the directed module structure utilized in the project; and 3) analyzing user data to explore the engagement of students and educators.

The project will also offer professional development opportunities for faculty and engage a diverse collection of institutions and students with an additional goal of broadening participation in the data science workforce.

As the need for data analysis grows, Baylor’s data scientists at the Research 1 level – with grants funding its research portfolio – are leading the way to provide businesses and industries with the next generation of ethical leaders and problem solvers in the diverse field of data sciences.

“NSF grants such as this are very important to our department as we establish our research identity among other R1 statistics programs. It is particularly timely as we introduce a new sports analytics concentration in our undergraduate major,” said James D. Stamey, Ph.D., chair and professor of statistical science at Baylor.