The NCAA, the Mid-American Conference (MAC), and Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) announced statistical data partnerships. This allows companies to collect conference data, including player stats, and present it to the public.
Sports betting in California is currently illegal. However, legislation will be voted on in this year’s elections, and these partnerships could have significant ramifications.
MAC partners with Genius Sports
On March 9, the MAC announced its partnership with Genius Sports, the first-ever deal of its kind. The agreement spans five years and gives Genius Sports exclusive rights to the distribution and marketing of the official NCAA conference data.
Data that Genius Sports will control includes:
- To-the-minute statistics
- Shot tendencies
- Health metrics of players
Currently, Genius Sports provides the same services to 400+ sports organizations around the globe. Their portfolio includes NASCAR, PGA, and the NFL. The agreement between Genius Sports and the MAC allows sportsbooks to purchase real–time MAC statistics to set betting lines.
While the partnership will allow the sale of data to sports betting companies, MAC Commissioner, Jon Steinbrecher says the sole purpose of the partnership is not the promotion of sports wagering.
“We’re doing this to control our data, which ends up in the public domain anyway,” he said. “We want to manage that asset. We want that asset to provide value back to our institutions so that we can support our student-athletes, plain and simple.”
Pac-12 partners with Tempus Ex Machina
The week after the MAC’s data partnership was announced, the Pac-12 announced a similar deal with Tempus Ex Machina.
This partnership will allow Tempus Ex Machina to manage and oversee the conference’s data. The company’s industry-leading technology reportedly provides the fastest, most data-rich delivery in the sports market.
The technology also gives footage access to officials and teams from any camera feed. As a result, it opens the door for meaningful fan engagement with direct-to-consumer video.
“Unlike traditional data reseller deals,” said Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner and COO Jamie Zaninovich, “this is a first-of-its-kind partnership because it will allow the Pac-12 to power new opportunities while simultaneously maximizing the value of our data rights as we evaluate our future media rights and enhance our support of Pac-12 athletic departments.”
In addition to data management, Tempus Ex Machina will provide funding to Pac-12 universities for certain programs. These programs will train student-athletes to build commercial and educational products using the company’s technology.
“Tempus Ex Machina is committed to providing students and student-athletes with access to the most advanced, cutting-edge technology on the field and in the classroom,” said board member Larry Fitzgerald. “The Pac-12’s students and faculty will be the first to build research, educational and commercial products on Tempus Ex’s platform.”
Partnerships follow similar NBA and NFL 2021 deals
In 2021, both the NFL and the NBA entered into similar data agreements. Those partnerships are worth at least $100 million apiece, a possible catalyst for the NCAA conferences seeking their own agreements.
Pac-12 Network President Mark Shuken is optimistic about Tempus Ex’s product, given the company’s work with the NFL.
“Tempus Ex’s unique technology, which we have seen do revolutionary things for the NFL,” he said, “will enable the Pac-12 to deliver an unparalleled advantage to our athletic programs, enable unique experiences for our student-athletes, and enhance the fan experience.”
Selling NCAA conference data of student athletes raises concerns
As NCAA conferences plunge forward into these data partnerships, questions are popping up regarding the legal consequences of data agreements.
28 states provide college athletes with legal ownership of their name, image, and likeness. Consequently, some argue that the data deals may violate intellectual property rights.
Geragos & Geragos lawyer and New York Law School professor of sports law, Dan Lust, weighed in on the legalities of the partnerships.
“Players could argue that player health metrics aren’t a conference’s to sell,” he said. “That if they sell it, they’re profiting off of something the players should have control over.”
Furthermore, Lust questions if the NCAA conferences have fully considered the legal implications or if they’re taking advantage of underrepresented college athletes.
“The MAC wants to take the first deal of its kind and take the pay day. The question is whether that’s going to invite some type of legal challenge down the road as player rights continue to expand,” he said.
“Until there’s some type of union or entity formed to fight on the player’s behalf, maybe the MAC feels comfortable, but it’s murky waters.”