In a move that many see as long overdue, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has given the go-ahead for its athletes, colleges, and conferences to sign data distribution deals with sports technology companies.
At a recent meet, the NCAA concluded that it was all right for individuals, schools, and conferences to furnish sports betting companies with their stats, provided the same information is made available to the public.
Until recently, the NCAA forbade the sharing of data with betting operators. Because it was protecting the integrity of collegiate sports.
However, the NCAA has now loosened those regulations. And there’s nothing stopping rights holders in college sports from cashing in on the rapidly expanding US betting market. And that soon may include the Sunflower State, as legal Kansas online sports betting is closer than ever to getting life.
This development comes at a time when the NCAA is revamping its approach to college sports. Just last summer, the Division I Board of Directors approved a policy allowing student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness (NIL).
The board also decided to change its antitrust laws vis-a-vis student-athlete compensation, further indicating that the NCAA is voluntarily relinquishing more rule-making and enforcement obligations to individual divisions and conferences.
Abrupt organizational changes, MAC inks first data partnership
These sudden policy shifts have taken their toll on management. Earlier this week, NCAA President Erik Emmert stepped down mid-contract, ending his 12-year reign of the organization. Some claim he’s to blame for a lot of the mess the association is in right now.
At any rate, the organization is currently looking for new leadership. And Emmert’s replacement could be a familiar face as former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is reportedly one of the top candidates.
A decision by the NCAA came after the Mid-American Conference (MAC) requested a clarification around data distribution last year. To everyone’s astonishment, it turned out that the conference had the right to sell its data. And that quickly led to a partnership deal with Genius Sports.
Few people are in the know as to how much Genius Sports paid the MAC for the right to manage and market the stats for all its sporting events for the next five years.
The figure, however, surely pales in comparison to what other larger conferences such as the Big Ten and the SEC will reel in.
It’s well known that these conferences are often more exciting and have a larger following than many of the pro leagues. All of this would of course translate to more bettors.
NCAA wants to protect the integrity of games
In the past, sportsbooks have struck similar deals with professional leagues like the NBA and the NFL in a bid to make good on the booming sports betting industry. The MAC is only trying to get its fair share of the pie.
For now, the partnership deal with Genius Sports doesn’t allow it to sell any data to sportsbooks. But that could all change soon once the NCAA sheds more light on its new legislation.
But not all are happy about these changes.
Citing that the NCAA is yielding too much power by letting go of the reins on how college sports ought to be governed and regulated. In January, the association approved a new condensed constitution, delegating yet more authority to individual divisions and eventually conferences.
One of the main reasons why the NCAA and US pro leagues fought vehemently to keep sports betting out of college sports was to protect the integrity of the games. But the Supreme Court case of Murphy vs NCAA in 2018 unlocked the federal ban on sports betting. And it gave individual states once again the ability to regulate sports betting.
Pro leagues such as the NHL, the NFL, and the MLB wasted little time in capitalizing on the court’s decision. They signed lucrative commercial deals with operators and data deals creating for themselves a new source of income.
Through these deals alone, the NFL was able to generate upwards of $2 billion in cash and equity. Meanwhile, the NCAA continues to sit on the fence as it still has no official sports betting partner. The deal it presently has with Genius Sports only covers media — no distribution to sportsbooks.
NCAA slowly coming around
There are however indications that the organization is slowly warming to the idea. Two years ago, the Division I council moved to strike a clause from the constitution.
The clause prohibited the advertising of sports gambling at their championship events. The legislative language was given a softer tone so that it could be more in tandem with those of the pro sports leagues.
Unlike pro-league sports, however, college conference games fall prey more easily to match-fixing and betting fraud. The players earn substantially less money than their pro peers, and oversight measures of the conferences are not as stringent.
Whether this will be a step in the right direction, only time can tell. But one thing is certain: it’s hard to stop progress.
Already two big schools in Nevada, UNLV and the University of Nevada-Reno, have permitted sportsbooks and casinos to advertise at their games. It’s important to note though that these two colleges are in a state where sports betting has long been legal.
And in states where sports betting is just now becoming the norm, such as Maryland and Colorado, some schools already have broader partnerships with sportsbooks.
The University of Colorado’s deal with PointBet for instance pays the university $1.625 million over five years. An additional $30 referral fee is paid to the school for every new customer it directs to PointBet.
Kansas losing out as it awaits sports betting approval
For sports betting fans in Kansas, this breakthrough comes at a pivotal time, as we’re waiting for the governor to sign an approved sports betting bill.
Already, opportunities have been missed. When the University of Kansas dueled the University of North Carolina for the men’s basketball championship, it was reported that more college students were able to bet on their favorite teams.
Some 45 million people, that’s 17% of the nation’s population, were expected to bet a total of $3.1 billion on March Madness this year. No doubt, many a Jayhawker would have liked to place a bet or two.
More evidence that the NCAA is finally coming round to sports betting came last year at the Fiesta Bowl. The association signed a partnership with Caesars Sportsbook that included a fan lounge at the game and title sponsorships.
This year, when the Final Four was played in Caesar’s Superdome, the NCAA, who covered some of the advertising, made little effort to hide the sponsor’s conspicuous name.
Photo by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press