ESPN statistician, UNC Charlotte professor working to increase diversity in sports analytics

The field of sports analytics will soon be a $6 billion industry.
John Tobias and Strength In Numbers hosted a sports analytics camp this week in Charlotte.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 9:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For John Tobias, a current UNC Charlotte professor and ESPN statistician, creating diversity in the field of sports analytics is personal.

“You have to start young and I think that just bringing awareness to these students think that they can choose to have a career in the sports analytics industry that they may not have even realized, even existed,” he said.

Tobias says sports analytics is a booming industry, currently valued at $1 billion. In the next five years, he says it’s expected to grow to $6 billion.

Even more of a reason he wants to get minorities and women involved by creating a pipeline.

“The issue is that there is a severe lack of diversity,” Tobias said. “A lot of times we have a position that is available, a lot of times 95 percent of the people that apply are white males and a lot of times people of color, and women have no idea that these careers even exists. So having camps like this, I think is very important because once again, it creates awareness which then leads to access which then leads to opportunity.”

For the past week, Tobias and his non-profit organization, Strength in Numbers, hosted a free sports analytics summer camp on UNC Charlotte’s Center City campus in uptown Charlotte.

The camp was open to high school students. The hope is they are able to take what they’ve learned and apply it at the secondary level -- choosing a career in sports analytics.

On Tuesday, students broke down numbers in the National Football League (NFL). There was also a speaker from the Carolina Panthers. Wednesday, there was a mock NBA Draft and press conference students participated in.

“Day three, they ended up being on ESPN to where it was like a ‘First Take’ debate, to where they ended up arguing but it has to be based on data,” Tobias said.

The week concluded with students learning about esports.

Devon Harris, a junior, says at first he thought sports analytics “was lame to be honest.”

But after attending the camp, he says, it’s changed his view about the industry.

“Now I see this as kind of like a path that I could take in the future if you know basketball doesn’t end up working out for me,” Harris said.

As Tobias points out, the goal is opening students to a career they might have never thought about.

“Representation in sports is very important because there’s a lot of great minds, both female and minority minds that don’t have access to this and are kind of missing out on opportunities like this,” Harris added.

Next week, camp will the camp will take place in Los Angeles, followed by New York City. Tobias says the camp will end on Aug. 3 in Minneapolis.

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