College of Health and Human Performance

With $2.5 million in funding, the University of Florida launches a strategic sports initiative

Hologram, athlete and running for wellness, exercise for healthy lifestyle and track heart rate. Male, futuristic and runner with digital sports, double exposure for marathon and fitness training. C Malambo/

January 5, 2024

The University of Florida is embarking on a multi-faceted initiative to propel the university to the global stage in sports performance, healthcare, and communication, while illuminating its world-class sports facilities and partnerships. Known as the UF & Sport Collaborative, the five-part project has received $2.5 million in support from UF President Ben Sasse’s strategic funding initiative. 

“UF is a national leader in sports performance and healthcare, and we’re ready to showcase our offerings and strengthen our partnerships on a much larger scale,” Sasse said. “The UF & Sport Collaborative will help take our reputation in sports to the next level and greatly improve our already outstanding athletics.”

In partnership with the University Athletic Association (UAA), five units at UF (the College of Health and Human Performance, the Warrington College of Business, the College of Journalism and Communications, the College of Medicine, and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering) are collaborating to launch the following projects as part of the comprehensive initiative:

  • Sport and Health Leaders: A new certificate program through the College of Health and Human Performance that will increase students’ understanding of athletes and the factors that influence their wellbeing. Available courses will include Personal and Family Health, Athlete Health and Wellbeing, Athlete Career Management, and Worksite and Health Promotion.
  • Gator AccelerAItor for Sport Analytics: The College of Health and Human Performance and the Warrington College of Business will partner with the UF’s men’s basketball team to improve recruitment, player evaluation, scouting, and game strategy through artificial intelligence (AI) tools. The project will also develop a master’s degree program in AI and Sports Analytics, and provide students with a real-world laboratory for working directly with teams and athletes.
  • AI-Powered Athletics: The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the UAA will build an infrastructure to enable AI-powered athletics based on the wearable sensor and health data of student athletes. Funded projects may generate pilot data and initial publications that lead to large-scale research proposals for federal agencies.
  • Transforming Sport Science Research for Every Body: The College of Medicine will help advance the analytic capacity of the UF Health Sports Performance Center, making it a centerpiece of research and testing for able-bodied and para-athletes of all ages and fitness levels. The Center will advance precision treatment, performance training, and research inclusivity for athletes.
  • Gator Nation Gameday Live: The College of Journalism and Communications will offer students an opportunity to produce a live, one-hour sports preview show, modeled after ESPN’s “College GameDay” program. Students will gain experience in anchoring, reporting, producing, and directing. The program will air live on various platforms on the Saturday mornings of Gator football home games, starting in Fall 2024. Students will provide a preview of that day’s game, insightful breakdowns and analytics, profiles of UF athletes and coaches, and highlights of the game-day experience.

“The College of Journalism and Communications has one of the top sports education programs in the country, from sports reporting and play-by-play announcing to sports production to sports marketing,” College of Journalism and Communications Dean Hub Brown said about the Gameday Live project. “Strategic funding will help our students use data for more in-depth sports stories and analysis about Gator football, and provide new insights for Gator Nation.”

Regarding the Gator AccelerAItor for Sports Analytics project, Warrington College of Business Dean Saby Mitra said the initiative will “combine the AI and analytics expertise of Warrington faculty and students, the world-class sports management programs in the College of Health and Human Performance, and the power of Gator Athletics.”

Forrest J. Masters, Ph.D., interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, said the AI-Powered Athletics project will be an incredible resource for UF.

“Uniting engineering, computer science, and the UAA to harness AI, wearable sensor technology, and advanced data analytics will help our student athletes live their best lives on and off the field,” Masters said.

Michael Reid, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, agreed, also spotlighting the Sport and Health Leaders project.

“The Gator Nation has a rich sports history. I’m excited that UF faculty from five colleges will come together to tackle some of the biggest challenges in this field,” Reid said. “Our experts will address topics ranging from athlete development to sport analytics, from video journalism to wearable sensor technology. The results are sure to innovate sports, strengthen related industries, and help drive the Florida economy.”

And the Transforming Sport Science Research for Every Body project will be impactful for all athletes, said College of Medicine Interim Dean Jennifer Hunt, M.D., M.Ed.

“The College of Medicine is at the forefront of technological advances, personalized medicine, and data science. This project will help expand our robust research and clinical expertise in biometric testing and analysis to enhance sport performance and safety for able-bodied and para-athletes of all experience levels,” Hunt said. “The team aims to better predict specific sport-related injuries and to predict responsiveness to medical treatment after injury, while developing new training programs for students in sports medicine research.”

Support for the UF & Sport Collaborative comes from the $130 million in new funding that UF from the Florida Legislature this year. Sasse established that, for the first time, more than half of the funds would be directed to units for special strategic projects. A total of $24 million was delivered to deans to report back on their uses of the funds, and another $50 million was made available across all colleges and administrative units. UF received more than 250 submissions and 40 proposals were selected – each one aimed at enhancing the student experience and advancing interdisciplinary scholarship.

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