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Volume 21 No. 30
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Genius Sports to run NCAA game data

The NCAA has struck a landmark 10-year deal with Genius Sports for the digital collection and distribution of game data, marking the college governing body’s first national-level deal in this area.

 

The agreement with the London-based company will involve the collection of game data at many NCAA championships beginning with 2019 basketball tournaments, including at all divisions and in both men’s and women’s sports, and the licensing and distribution of that data for various clients including media partners. The Genius Sports data platform will then be offered to individual member schools at no cost for an introductory period, and remain recommended by the NCAA after that.

Among the key advantages to the NCAA in the deal are a move toward standardization in the data operations for college sports, and enhanced services for the lower levels of competition and non-revenue sports. The Genius Sports deal arrives after a nearly two-year internal review by the NCAA into its data operations. After starting with basketball next year, other sports will be steadily folded into the platform.

“This presents a big opportunity for us to move into the 21st century,” said Oliver Luck, NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships. “It’s not just stats, but we really see this as big data. It’s going to open things up for us not only externally in terms of the distribution, but also internally and helping our coaches and players get smarter and better.”

The 10-year agreement will begin with next year’s basketball tournaments.
Photo: getty images

NCAA statistics had been handled and sold to third parties such as outside media entities primarily through a disparate series of conference and school-level alignments with various providers, most notably CBS Sports Digital’s StatCrew Software. Some entities will retain relationships with StatCrew.

Genius Sports, which has a growing U.S. presence, operates both data and technology services such as this pact with the NCAA, and an integrity operation to monitor potential match fixing and betting-related corruption. The NCAA deal does not include that latter component. But the company’s other top-tier clients include MLB, the PGA Tour, the English Premier League, FIBA and Bundesliga, among many others.

“This is about laying down a state-of-the-art foundation for data that will then allow the NCAA to really grow and expand from there,” said Bill Squadron, Genius Sports special counsel. Squadron is a longtime veteran of the sports data and analytics space, having previously held senior roles with Bloomberg Sports and Stats LLC before joining Genius Sports in late 2016, and he worked extensively with Steve Burton, Genius Sports managing director, and company chief executive Mark Locke on the NCAA deal. 

Financial terms were not disclosed. But the pact was described as being centered heavily around revenue sharing between the NCAA and Genius Sports of funds generated through the distribution of the collegiate data.

During the review process, the NCAA met with other data services providers including Sportradar about potential alignments. Luck said there were also preliminary talks with Google about collaborating on a newly built in-house data operation the NCAA would run. 

“We looked at a variety of partners and structures. And after seeing what Genius has done, particularly in Europe, that ultimately presented the best option for us,” Luck said.

Google is the NCAA’s official public cloud partner following a deal signed last December and is migrating more than 80 years of historical NCAA data from 90 championships and 24 sports into a new cloud platform. That data will also be used in part with media partners, as well as aiding selection and seeding efforts for NCAA championships. There will likely be some cooperation between Google and Genius Sports on their respective NCAA work. But formally, the two deals will exist in their own separate areas.