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BYU professor, a former NFL consultant, earns major stats honor

Published: Friday, July 5 2013 2:04 p.m. MDT

Reese constructs high-dimension statistical models that describe powerful solar storms.

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PROVO — Shane Reese once was a reluctant statistics student at BYU who later joined a fellow university colleague in a consulting role for then-Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid.

Now Reese, known nationally both for serious research and his passionate pursuit of statistics that help coaches and explain sports, is earning new recognition.

The American Statistical Association will name the BYU professor an association fellow this year, making him the fifth Utahn to receive the honor, bestowed on less than 1 percent of association members.

Reese said he was honored to be recognized by a board of people he has admired throughout his own career and credited much of his success to working with collaborators and students who helped make his work possible. He said he hoped his new status with the association would benefit BYU students looking to study statistics as graduate students.

"People looking to evaluate a (statistics) department will ask how many ASA fellows they have on staff," Reese said.

Reese's interest in statistics began during his own freshman year at BYU. He enrolled in a basic stats class fearing boredom, but instead found himself fascinated. It was "love at first sight," he said, and he immediately knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his career.

Reese saw statistics as a field that would not require him to focus on any one discipline, but that would instead allow him to push the frontiers of science while simultaneously "working in everyone's backyard," he said.

His current projects include modeling solar storms and enigmatic energy masses at the edge of the galaxy. Other projects have included locating bowhead whale mating grounds and assisting in the storage and demolition of nuclear and chemical weapons, but Reese joked about taking on these more serious topics to enable him to pursue his true passion — sports statistics. Reese has studied Babe Ruth, NASCAR and professional football, and even does research on behalf of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team.

At the end of the day, he said, he doesn't play favorites. He just follows his heart and investigates whatever statistical questions draw his interest.

"Maybe that reflects a little bit of intellectual ADD," he said.

Jeff Morris, a biostatistician at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, nominated Reese for the fellowship.

“He has an infectious enthusiasm that inspires students to enter the profession and makes him an ideal ambassador for our profession,” Morris said in a statement.

EMAIL: epenrod@deseretnews.com

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