A ‘Genius’ NCAA Partnership

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Last week, the NCAA signed a 10-year data and technology deal with Genius Sports. The agreement was announced on the same day the Supreme Court moved to legalize betting on sports. The goal will be to centralize and then MONETIZE the NCAA data.

Who is Genius Sports?

Genius Sports is a London-based company that works with leagues around the world to provide them with tools to collect data but, more importantly, then take that data and monetize it via distribution to fans and, while it’s not stated, I believe this is true, to betting houses.

That last part is not a bad thing but it’s important to note because up until now, most of the major partnerships Genius Sports has formed have been with international entities where betting is legal. The NCAA appears to be the first United States based organization to partner with them.

The plan is for Genius Sports to develop software for a number of NCAA sports to be available in 2019. The initial distribution is said to be free but it is noted to be the initial plan implying member institutions may have to pay in subsequent years.

Why is this important?

Two things come to mind:

  1. With this partnership and the previously discussed partnership with Google Cloud, the NCAA clearly understands that their data holds a lot of value and they are making moves to monetize it. But the Genius Sports deal implies they want to get in on the profits made by betting houses who take bets on NCAA games. If that’s true, just judging on how much is bet on March Madness each year, this could mean a huge windfall for the NCAA which brings me to my next thought….
  2. Good luck not paying players in the future because if you don’t, there could easily be another scandal like we’ve seen in the past, most notably at Boston College in the late 1970s.

I think if they are able to broker a deal for a percentage of what’s bet on their sports, there will be no charge to member institutions for whatever software is created in the future. But if the deal they offer to betting houses is not taken by as many groups as they think, that’s when they’ll turn back to their member institutions to charge for the software, which would be silly because there are plenty of companies out there creating great software for teams – like StatGeek! Or they will take the tack of charging Division II and Division III schools where there would likely be very little money, if any, ever bet on games.

Also, whatever Genius Sports creates will be for the SIDs to use with supposedly great outputs for teams and coaches – and they would have to be extremely detailed to be useful for setting betting lines – ask any gambler.

And while it may be great data – it doesn’t mean the whole batch would be available to every member school. In fact, I doubt that would happen until they got their hands around how all of this will really work. But Genius Sports may make it difficult for outside companies to access future NCAA data. Potentially bad news for a KenPom site or our own StatGeekAnalytics.com.

Now as Google Cloud gets the NCAA’s past data in order, Genius Sports will look to the future of the NCAA’s data.