New sports analytics program leads to competitive advantages

A student and professor look at a computer on a desk.

Visiting Assistant Professor Rebecca Achen and Maverick Pavletich '23, student and Tiger golfer.

University of the Pacific is primed to be a leader in sports analytics with eager Eberhardt School of Business students and faculty and the university’s coaches and student-athletes embracing the new program.

Associate Professor Pete Schroeder, who is leading the just-launched specialization, said Pacific’s overall sports management program, which he calls one of the best on the West Coast, can “really ramp it up with the addition of sports analytics.”

Baseball Coach Chris Rodriguez last spring utilized data from 10 cameras positioned around Klein Family Field to capture player movement, defensive range, throwing velocity, base running and much more. 

“These tools can make us a better team. Pacific has a chance to be one of the pioneers of sports analytics in college athletics,” he said. “I have talked with coaches at major colleges who have not heard of some of the innovative things we are doing here.”

The cameras at the baseball field and other equipment are part of a partnership with data integration and visualization pioneer SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology). The company stated it wants Pacific to serve as a model for sports analytics program at other United States universities.

“Pacific has generously opened its doors, and we anticipate great achievements through this unique alliance between SMT and the naturally inquisitive minds of the student population of Pacific,” said Cameron Adams, the company’s implementation lead. 

“SMT’s goal is to work its technology in with programs so they can train students on how to use it,” Visiting Assistant Professor Rebecca Achen said. “They can graduate people to work with their professional organizations. The industry is growing so rapidly.”

Schroeder and Achen are working with students to compile and analyze sports data and foresee many applications of the technology moving forward. In addition to player performance, analytics can be used in marketing, event management, finance and expanded to other areas, Schroeder said.

“Analytics can help you determine how to make money at your venue or maximize and leverage your marketing,” Schroeder said. “There are so many applications for all business students, and that makes the field exciting and promising.”

Other Pacific athletic programs have delved into sports analytics:

•    Soccer players have worn devices during practice that track their movement on the field and provide data.
•    Water polo student-athletes have used data-compiling virtual reality headsets during practices. 
•    The golf program has studied launch angle and spin rate of shots, along with strokes gained or lost from tee to green and other factors impacting players’ scores.

“I saw how all of the professionals are using golf analytics to help their games progress,” said student athlete Maverick Pavletich ’23, who recently played in the United States Amateur Golf Tournament. “Through analytics, Professor Achen teaches us how to take that data and put it into real life. There is no question in my mind that analytics make me a better player.”

Pacific’s sports analytics program has a potential feeder system with a class taught by Achen in the Pacific Summer High School Institute, a two-week residential experience for high school students that offers a range of academic programs.

“We had high school students say they are already considering careers in sports analytics,” Achen said. “That is something I had not seen before from students of that age.”

Learn more about the sports analytics program.