NCAA Inks Timely Data Deal With Genius Sports, But Sports Betting Not Included (Yet)

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NCAA data deal

The NCAA is locking down some of its data.

On Monday, it announced a partnership with Genius Sports to “transform the digital collection and distribution of intercollegiate sports data.”

Genius is one of the leaders in the field, providing its services to a number of international organizations. It’s also leading the charge for sports league rights when it comes to data, with a website dedicated to the topic along with integrity.

“This technology will deliver a world-class experience for NCAA fans, coaches, players, athletic directors and administrators alike,” said CEO Mark Locke. “We’re delighted to be playing a pivotal role in the NCAA’s digital transformation, implementing one of the most advanced technology systems in sports.”

More from the announcement:

NCAA member schools and conferences adopting the software platform will benefit from enhanced data capture and distribution services, richer coaching insights, and a captivating fan and media experience with engaging statistics delivered to multiple platforms in real time.

More data capture will be great, but down the road there could be implications for sports betting. Genius also facilitates data streams that are used by bookmakers; currently, the NCAA data deal does not appear to encompass sports betting data or integrity monitoring, but that could easily change if the NCAA decides it should.

The announcement came just hours before a landmark US Supreme Court decision authorizing state-based regulation. And “official data” has been a hot topic in state legislatures during recent months.

NCAA moves to control data

The top line of the agreement is the NCAA joining professional sports leagues in the modern age of data collection. Genius’ tools will be available to more than 1,100 schools competing across all three divisions of collegiate athletics. Players, coaches and programs will have more information at their disposal.

Genius is the NCAA’s “exclusive agent in licensing real-time official data from championship events… to media platforms and other companies.” That means Genius has control over the distribution of real-time NCAA data to the outlets that want access to it.

Professional sports leagues are diligently seeking to leverage data partnerships into control over sports betting.

Why data matters for sports betting

The leagues realize that they can’t keep people from betting on their games, nor can they keep sportsbooks from settling bets based on public information (like a final score).

They’d like to control in-game betting, though, which requires some form of enhanced data collection. The official version of that data originates with leagues partners, but third parties also collect the majority of it.

Hoping for that control, leagues are lobbying lawmakers to mandate the use of official league data for sportsbooks. It makes sense from a financial standpoint, as it would allow them to charge sportsbooks to license their stats. Data exclusivity, however, would also give leagues control over which types of wagers sportsbooks could offer.

For the NBA and Major League Baseball, that would mean restrictions on certain in-game bets. US professional sports leagues have softened their stance on sports betting, but they’re still a little worried about live wagering.

The collegiate body, though, remains aghast at all sports betting. March Madness is the biggest event of the year for bettors, and the NCAA would prefer it came off the board.

That will never happen, but there is some legal precedent for league control over real-time data, specifically. Rights to use that in-game data for betting purposes is a legal issue worth monitoring in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling.

Will the Genius Sports-NCAA deal eventually include data that is used by sportsbooks? That remains to be seen.