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Data for Future Leaders

In the summer of 2023, PFF launched its Academia Program to provide undergrad and grad students with hands-on experience using real-world sports data. PFF currently supports research and curriculum efforts at over 25 universities, providing classrooms and student groups with research prompts, prepared data sets, and training. This program provides invaluable experience for budding professionals aspiring to enter the sports analytics industry.

Tee Higgens Sunday Night Football Graphic

Real Data & Team

PFF's data science team has led groundbreaking work in data analytics, revolutionizing how sports teams strategize, make recruitment decisions and fine-tune performance. By collaborating with academia, PFF aims to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application, creating an ecosystem where future leaders in sports analytics can flourish.

There are three goals inside the PFF Academia Program:

  1. Provide students with hands-on experience with real-world data
  2. LEVERAGE insights used by team clients, Consumers and agencies.
  3. Grow our data science team with more resources in the future, including the possibility of internships, job openings & networking opportunities.


This past school year, research prompts focused on 1) Transfer Portal Success, 2) Field goal and punt results, 3) Pass coverage evaluation. PFF partner schools across the nation have seen a rise in attendance and genuine interest since incorporating PFF Data into their coursework/curriculum.

Abstract representation of research

Transfer portal success

NCAA teams want to know what they should look for in transfer portal players. We will provide data for all WR (or other position) who transferred in a certain season, including play-by-play data before and after they transferred. We will provide WAA values and 0-100 grades as well as baselines for success. We would like to know what features are most important for success that translates between schools. We would also be interested in different “success” metrics.

Field goal & punt results

We have models for projecting the outcomes of field goals (make/miss) and punts (opponent’s starting field position). However, we would like to have improved models, which would take into account the individual kicker/punter as well as stadium/field information. We will provide relevant game-state information at the play-level as well as player- and stadium-level information. The aim is to generate more accurate information for fourth-down decisions, expected points, win probability, etc.

Coverage evaluation

Our coverage grades are some of the least stable year-over-year. They are especially sensitive to opposing quarterback play. However, we now have qb charting data as well as all-coverage data to help correct for this. We will provide play-by-play, qbc, and all-coverage data for defensive backs over a two-year time period. The challenge will be to design a more stable and accurate measure of a player’s coverage production, independent of the result of the play.

Partner Testimonials

Students’ interest in data science is pervasive across all areas of study. Our team in the Data Mine works with students from every type of major. Sports analytics and player performance have emerged as one of the students’ top requests for projects. In particular, the Data Mine values the partnership with PFF, which has enabled students to have an active, first-hand understanding of the powerful effect that a football player’s performance has on all aspects of the game. Indeed, it seems that the future of the NFL and the future of data analytics are permanently intertwined. We love the opportunity to offer student projects with our friends at PFF, and we look forward to building a deeper and bigger partnership with PFF in 2024 and beyond.

Mark Daniel Ward, Ph.D.Professor of Statistics and Executive Director of the Data Mine

Partnering with PFF on student-led projects has been a valuable experience. Working alongside data scientists from a leading sports analytics company has given us a unique and enjoyable opportunity for our undergraduates to learn and get feedback directly from those in the industry.

Ben ThorpePresident of Duke University’s Sports Analytics Club

We have enjoyed a great relationship with PFF and hope to continue going forward. I hope to continue and expand the program in the future.

Dr. Ryan RuddySenior Lecturer from the Department of Economics at Ohio State University