NCAA Makes Big Data Play in New Deal

In a move that brings together the huge amount of data that college sports produces annually, the NCAA will collaborate with a big-data firm to gather and sell sports statistics to the media and other organizations. It’ll initially make the data available to members for free.

Don’t let all those athletes tell you otherwise: The world of sports runs on statistics. It drives everything from fantasy sports to news stories to everything in between.

For the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the job of gathering statistics has always been decentralized—handled by the numerous universities, conferences, and other organizations that make up the NCAA’s more than 1,100 member institutions. But a new collaboration between the NCAA and the U.K. firm Genius Sport could be a real game changer for college athletics.

The decade-long deal between the two organizations, announced this week, will create a centralized approach to grabbing data, said Oliver Luck, the NCAA’s executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships.

“It was really just recently that we started to say to ourselves, ‘Wait a minute, all these statistics are big data, and that’s valuable in this era of analytics,’” Luck told Bloomberg.

So why change things up now? All that data is worth something to media outlets and other organizations, so the NCAA sees a potential new revenue source. And the data often gets sliced and diced in fascinating ways during gameplay. Which is why it makes sense that the program will launch during next year’s March Madness basketball tournaments, with other sports getting it later on.

Although the NCAA sees the possibility of new revenue, it won’t enable the sale of the data for gambling purposes—even after the Supreme Court effectively legalized sports betting this week in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

One group of potential customers is the NCAA’s own members. The association revealed that, as a service to its member schools and universities, it would make the Genius Sports offering available for free during a three-year introductory period.

“This initiative will transform the way we collect, use, and distribute the vast amount of sports data being consumed across all sports at every level,” Luck said in a news release. “It will allow our schools to upgrade to state-of-the-art technology.”

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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