Article of the Week | BYU Studies

Article of the Week

The Brigham Young University Football Program and the Analytics Revolution
January 2, 2017
Article of the Week
The Brigham Young University Football Program and the Analytics Revolution
Nelson Chung

This daily feature is the introduction to a full article by Nelson Chung which was published in our newest issue, 55:4 To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

The Brigham Young University football program is the most visible component of the LDS Church's flagship school. In 2010, it contracted to ESPN the broadcast of a majority of its games for a reported $800,000 to $1.2 million per home game through 2018. During the 2015 season, its eight games on the ESPN-ABC family of networks reached 14.8 million televisions, an average of 1.9 million each game. In terms of missionary value, the program rivals the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Along with publicity, the Choir has also invited a fair amount of scholarly attention, most notably a study of how its contract with Columbia Records led to a secularization of part of its repertoire, a chapter in the University of Illinois Press's Mormonism and Music volume, an entire volume of its history in the same publisher's Music in America series that linked the Choir to Mormon theology on angelic music, a review of that volume, and accounts of its European and Pacific tours.

In contrast, scholarship on BYU sports is scant. A search for peer-reviewed sources on lib.byu.edu yielded just three results. Current BYU president Kevin J. Worthen, when serving as advancement vice president, held BYU's successful lobbying of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) to revoke waivers to their rules accommodating Sunday nonplay to be a case of how internal pressure can affect nongovernmental bodies. The two other works treated past and residual racial issues surrounding the football program. This article provides a new angle by examining BYU football in light of the proliferation of "analytics," or advanced statistics, in sports and finds that analytics illuminate the program's condition across time, predict its future, and have made their way into the program's decision-making process.