WASHINGTON, DC – 7 September 2023 – Student Freedom Initiative have announced a long-term strategic partnership with Morehouse College and Stats Perform, global leader in AI solutions for the sports industry, to create an “AI in Basketball” course. The partnership aims to offer education about applications of AI in sport, provide internships, and expand job opportunities upon graduation for students attending Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC) member institutions.
Through the effective use of AI, organizations can use systems to help humans make better decisions. Recently, Fortune highlighted the fact that “[t]he newest AI systems can recognize individual players, movements, plays, or patterns without human eyes viewing a screen. That means a coach can find the exact footage he or she needs without searching through hours of video.” According to Mark A. Brown, Ed.D., Executive Director at Student Freedom Initiative, “The promise of AI in sports is emerging; leveraging sports is a perfect pathway to expose our HBCU students to the foundational principles of AI and address the wealth gap by better positioning them for the in-demand jobs of the future.”
The “AI in Basketball” course aims to harness the promise of AI in sports for the benefit of HBCU students. The for-credit class, which launches this fall on Morehouse’s campus, will welcome students from Morehouse, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University who have chosen majors in the areas of math, physics, and engineering. Dr. Patrick Lucey will teach the course, Chief Scientist at Stats Perform, working in connection with Morehouse faculty. “Stats Perform has been the pioneer of AI in the basketball space for well over a decade, not only with our computer vision systems to collect player and ball tracking data, but also with our predictive models using machine learning,” explains Dr. Lucey. “We are excited to show the students some of the many ways AI can take basketball to new levels for teams, players, media organizations, fans, and others, and see it as the perfect vehicle for students to get a deep understanding on how AI can be used across many fields.”
“As this specific corporate-academic partnership with Stats Perform was being designed, we collectively agreed to be very intentional,” said Dr. Alfred R. Watkins, Department Chair for Computer Science, at Morehouse College. “We sought a long-term industry partner, the inclusion of all three HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center Consortium, and specific learning and career opportunities within high-demand, high-growth sectors of the economy for our students.”
As the leading provider in sports data collection and predictive analysis—and portfolio company of Vista Equity Partners, whose Chairman and CEO Robert F. Smith paid off the student debt for the Morehouse graduating class of 2019—Stats Perform was a natural fit. Stats Perform’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion played a key role as well. CEO Carl Mergele commented, “At Stats Perform, we recognize the immense impact of DEI efforts on our communities, and on our own success and growth. Representation plays a vital role in fostering innovation and driving our collective potential to new heights. Stats Perform is thrilled to establish this partnership with the Atlanta University Center Consortium and the Student Freedom Initiative, and we look forward to driving change and hopefully creating a model for this type of program that others can follow,” said Mergele.
Employment opportunities will form an important part of the new partnership. Students who complete the AI in Basketball course will be able to apply for a limited number of internships with Stats Perform, with the potential for these internships to transition into full-time employment.
“Targeted, strategic public-private partnerships that include measurable outcomes between Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and innovative companies like Stats Perform will continue to be the accelerant to transformative change,” according to Keith B. Shoates, Chief Operating Officer, Student Freedom Initiative. “We are hopeful that other firms continue to make similar long-term investments in our MSIs and their students.”