MATH 20
Greatest vs. Best: A Quantitative Exploration of Athletics Winter 2023

Class Details

This class will focus on a longstanding athletics debate surrounding who is the greatest athlete of all time (“GOAT”) through various quantitative research avenue. As time has progressed throughout sports, more advanced statistics, measuring apparatuses, and general comparison metrics have evolved to support the ability of professional teams to properly assess talent. We can now see how Lebron James compares to Kevin Durant, both players from the same era; it is much harder to compare James to Tom Brady, and doing so requires the introduction of new metrics to compare across sports. There are two major aims. First, create a central quantitative measurement that can compare athletes across different team sports and eras to one another to accurately assess ability. Second, alter the conversation away from the “GOAT” discussion towards the best of all teammates (“BOAT”). The BOAT perspective makes the problem significantly more approachable, as now we are not concerned with contributions to a team’s success, but just how successful a team is. This is still a non-trivial problem, as we have to quantify how much easier it is for a strong team to win a championship in different sports.
The Class: Format: seminar; Class will be a combination of lectures and student projects.
Limit: 15
Expected: 10
Class#: 1315
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Goal is to contribute to paper or papers to be submitted to sports analytics journals.
Prerequisites: None, but knowledge in programming / statistics a plus.
Enrollment Preferences: Students with appropriate background in math / stats / programming and expertise in knowledge of team sport statistics.
Materials/Lab Fee: $40 for supplies, access to data sets, travel to local conferences.

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