Former ‘Jeopardy!’ Champ and Sports-Analytics Guru Now Teaching in College’s Department of Decision & Information Sciences
He’s a two-time “Jeopardy!” champ, a math and sports lover who uses his knowledge to help professional basketball teams like the Dallas Mavericks improve their game, and a new professor at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business.
Meet Wayne L. Winston, who was recently named a clinical assistant professor in the college’s Department of Decision & Information Sciences. A New Jersey native and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale, Winston comes to Bauer after a 38-year run at Indiana University.
An analytics expert, Winston is perhaps best known for revolutionizing the way basketball teams rate performance.
Currently teaching a course in Sports and Math and an MBA statistics course, he was much in demand as a college-basketball pundit during March Madness.
“My field is sort of teaching math in the business school,” says Winston, who won more than 40 teaching awards at Indiana, including six honors as best MBA professor. “In about the early 1990s, I got involved in trying to teach the subject in a practical way using spreadsheets, like Excel. So basically the last 20 years that’s all I’ve done is write books and teach classes, using Excel to solve business problems.”
Those skills have paid off handsomely — in the form of consulting gigs with Microsoft, Eli Lilly, the U.S. Navy and Cisco. In recent years, he has applied his knack for number crunching to sports.
Using the baseball tool known as sabermetrics, Winston and former MIT classmate Jeff Sagarin created their evaluation system in the late ’90s. They have worked for the Mavericks and the New York Knicks.
In 2009, Princeton University Press published Winston’s book “Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football.” An updated paperback edition was released in 2012.
In 1992, Winston appeared on “Jeopardy” three times. He won twice, taking home $16,800 — plus a year’s supply of Touch of Butter and Eskimo Pies.
In Bloomington, he was known for the Super Bowl charity fund-raisers and “trash TV” marathons he held at his home to promote faculty-student interaction. He retired from Indiana last year.
Of his new life in Houston, Winston says he’s impressed with the university’s commitment to students and with the city’s amenities.
This fall, he hopes to offer his statistics course online. “I had a lot of experience doing this at Indiana, and I think I know how to do it pretty well,” he said.
“So I am hoping I can sort of set an example for other people on how these quantitative courses can be taught online. Then perhaps I’ll be teaching analytics courses in functional areas like finance, marketing, supply chain — and sports again, I hope.”
As for his sports-analytics career, Winston says he’d like to try football next. “I have some good ideas for football,” he said. “I’d love to talk to the Houston Texans.”
By Wendell Brock
Faculty Focus: Wayne Winston
Wayne Winston, clinical assistant professor for the Department of Decision & Information Sciences at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, shares how his background in math and sports helps him prepare students for a future in analytics.