A newly formed organization of Ohio State professors and other distinct faculty are challenging the traditional views of sports through in-depth research.
The Sports and Society Initiative at OSU performs data analytics research to look at the way sports interact with the economy and society. The collective, which is composed of professors from five different majors, began in October. Despite being just five months old, SSI is already making headway through its multiple areas of expertise. Its members work toward developing new findings in the realm of sports research.
Janet Box-Steffensmeier, the divisional dean for social and behavioral sciences in the OSU College of Arts and Sciences, is one of the driving forces behind SSI. Her role is to support the ideas and research done by professors, as well as galvanize outside donors, public officials and OSU alumni about this newly thriving organization.
“(SSI) wants Ohio State to be the place to go for research on sports,” Box-Steffensmeier said.
One of the leading professors on the forefront of SSI’s research is Trevon Logan.
Logan, an economics professor who has been at OSU for more than 10 years, is the group’s main member that is deeply examining the correlations between sports and economics.
“There are social science and policy aspects to sports,” he said. “They are just never brought up in the public sphere and talked about.”
That is where SSI comes in. Its goal is to challenge the conventional wisdom of sports, as well as provide a platform in which research and discussion of sports issues can take place.
“We want to make Ohio State sports-related research as prominent as the sports themselves,” Logan said.
His recent research dove deep into the issues of compensation for student-athletes. The professor began delving into years of OSU data in order to analyze the effects the school’s recruits have on the number of wins and bowl game appearances.
Thereafter, Logan took that information of wins and appearances and reviewed their connections to the university’s football-related revenue. The research revealed, based on revenues and expenditures, that a five-star recruit is worth about $900,000 for a university, Logan said. That number dips to $400,000 for a four-star recruit.
“If you think about that number based on a five-star and four-star recruit’s salary in the NFL, those are honestly not too crazy of numbers,” Logan said.
Next, Logan examined the data around transferring and the frequency of players departing early for the professional ranks across FBS schools.
This research found that 15 percent of college football players will transfer to another university. The most common transfer position, Logan said, was the quarterback position. Additionally, the professor found that 11 percent of players will leave early for the NFL draft.
“When these numbers were generated, I was shocked,” he said.
SSI members will present this research — and more — in the coming months at a multitude of events regarding policy and economics in the world of sports.
One of these events includes a forum centered on the pay-to-play model in high school athletics. The event is titled, “Pay to Play: Who’s In, Who’s Out and How Much?” and it is set to be held at 9 a.m. on Feb. 26 in Pfahl Hall room 202.
Discussing the issue, Logan said, will be a panel of professors and politicians, such as Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, State Sen. Cliff Hite, Scott Grant, a professor at the University of Findlay and Ohio University Professor David Ridpath.
“The goal of this forum is to discuss ways to increase participation in high school athletics without increasing the costs,” Logan said.
A separate gathering is slated to be held on April 15 to dissect compensation for collegiate student-athletes. This function will present sports experts and OSU alumni from across the nation to examine this subject, Logan said. Arguably the crown jewel of the panel will be Vince Doria, an OSU graduate and senior vice president and director of news at ESPN.
Research SSI has conducted concerning this issue will be presented at the forum, too, Logan said.
“(SSI and the panel) want to discuss the implications of compensation for student-athletes and what it would mean for the future of college athletics,” he said.
Box-Steffensmeier possesses similar goals for these cutting-edge gatherings. Her hope is to further dialogue about these important national issues while promoting the faculty involved with SSI and the research it has performed.
Additionally, she said she also wants to intrigue students who have a passion for sports and encourage them to contact those involved with SSI. She said she believes that students doing this could spark new ideas and issues to research.
She said she holds big aspirations for the future of SSI.
“I would love major news outlets to have a hot sports topic and know that we have an outstanding roster of faculty and students to call upon about the issue,” Box-Steffensmeier said.
SSI might be in its early stages, but the collective is taking giant leaps, reaching new, unexplored heights in the vast expanse of college athletics.
“Ohio State is on the move in regards to sports-related research,” Logan said.
And with the passion, intelligence and ability of this small group of faculty members, there is no telling just how influential its work might be.