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Analytics Helps Shine New Light into the World of Athletics

Business Analytics Honors Program students partner with Jordan Sports Group on new venture.

Updated BAHP

By: Caroline Barnhill

While many industries have eagerly embraced new technologies and data analytics to better analyze areas like performance and profitability, some fields have been slower to capitalize on the power of big data. Carter Jordan ‘86, and former NC State head wrestling coach, is hoping his past experience in athletics and business will change that.

In 2012, after a fifteen-year coaching career, Jordan – who has a background in finance and spent years as an insurance agent – launched Jordan Sports Group. “During my years of coaching, coming from the private sector, I could see issues within the industry – specifically around building and renovating athletic facilities,” Jordan says. “I took the concept of being an insurance broker and applied it to athletics. I represent schools when they are building new facilities and it outfit them, brokering deals for outdoor tracks, lighting, turf fields and more. It turned into a great business.”

However, in recent years, Jordan began to think through how to use the power of data analytics to transform the college athletics industry on a larger scale. His quest led him to the Poole College of Management.

Immediately, I was blown away by the intelligence and capabilities of these [Business Analytics] honors students.

“I originally reached out to Sherry Fowler to figure out how I could learn more about data analytics and she connected me with the Business Analytics Honors Program,” Jordan remembers. “Immediately, I was blown away by the intelligence and capabilities of these honors students.”

As part of the program, select Poole undergraduate students complete challenging analytics coursework along with a practicum course that allows them to engage with local employers working on real-world business analytics projects. Jordan’s new idea was a perfect fit.

“I wanted to find a way to use analytics to develop a ranking system that is comprehensive, thoughtful and nuanced,” Jordan explains. “What we currently have are very elementary ways to rank athletic departments and facilities. I wanted a way to do that while incorporating the opinion of those who it impacts most – the student-athletes.”

The student team assigned to Jordan’s new venture included Jonathan Koletic, Leon Krapf, Gennavieve Wood, Olumayowa Ogunmola and Dylan Rice – who bring with them undergraduate experience in finance, accounting, information technology, economics, statistics and operations and supply chain management. The student team was led by Rakesh Ravi, a research assistant professor in the department of business management.

Our mission was to engineer, construct and apply a rating agency styled data-driven evaluation of NCAA athletic departments.

“Jordan Sports Group wanted us to determine what constitutes a successful D1 athletic department. While this might seem like a very straight-forward question, when you peel back the layers, it’s not. Many athletic departments are failing their student-athletes. Being a former student-athlete, it was easy for me to imagine the success on my team – but how do you measure the success of an athletic department,” explains Koletic, who is currently a senior majoring in finance. “Our mission was to engineer, construct and apply a rating agency styled data-driven evaluation of NCAA athletic departments.”

The task was a significant one.

“I wanted them to find a way to use data to take into account issues like the financial stability of a school, the student-athlete experience, diversity of the school, wins and losses, academic successes – all weighted, of course, using a proprietary calculation,” Jordan explains. “The students did a phenomenal job coming up with a base methodology we can expand upon.” 

Koletic is proud of the work his team produced. 

Our findings were robust, and as an academic team, we successfully achieved our goal of producing an actionable and repeatable solution to optimize college athletics.

“While there is more work to be done in order to evaluate athletic departments, we believe that our solution – our platform – uniquely incorporates all relevant aspects of the student-athlete into the overall success of a college athletic department. Our goal was to create a platform that educates and lifts-up collegiate athletics through a data-driven evaluation while providing a repeatable solution and template for current and future college athletic departments. There is no question that the schools that received a higher rating historically have performed well both on and off the field. Our findings were robust, and as an academic team, we successfully achieved our goal of producing an actionable and repeatable solution to optimize college athletics.” 

The opportunity to partner with an actual company on a real-world problem is something that Koletic, who recently accepted a position with Wells Fargo on their enterprise risk management team, is one of the unique advantages provided to students in the Business Analytics Honors Program.

“NC State has set a high standard for the data analytics field and I am so fortunate to

participate. I believe, as a student, there are few schools that offer this caliber of

program to their undergraduate students,” Koletic explains. “It was a unique opportunity to work with a company. The work we do here is real and everything we do prepares us for our futures and the future of business analytics.”