Updated: Jul 20, 2022
After inking deals with professional leagues for certain player data, including the NFL, NBA, and MLB, sportsbooks are now shifting gears to the NCAA. In response to a request for interpretation from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the NCAA will now allow schools and conferences to initiate deals with sportsbooks for statistics.
Request for Interpretation
Section 10.3 of the NCAA Manual provides that certain members shall not participate nor provide information to individuals involved in sports wagering activities, including staff members and non-staff members of a school’s athletic department, staff members of a conference office, and student-athletes.
The MAC sought to clarify whether the section prohibited conferences from entering into deals for player data. In response, the Division Interpretation Committee will allow schools and conferences to provide statistics to sportsbooks, provided that the information is available to the general public.
Why Sell Statistics?
Quite simply, selling statistics provides leagues, conferences, and schools an opportunity to cash in on sports wagering. As an example, the NFL’s deal Is likely worth over $100 million per year. Even though any distribution deal a conference or school makes is unlikely to be as significant as the NFL’s, selling statistics opens up a revenue stream for something that sportsbooks already had.
Who Owns the Statistics?
For now, the Interpretations Committee limited its interpretation to statistics available to the public, which is a calculated maneuver. In NBA v. Motorola, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that copyright law protects broadcasts, but the facts (or statistics) are not copyrightable. Therefore, for copyright purposes, those seeking ownership of the data produced must overcome the holding in Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, “[n]o author may copyright facts or ideas.”
For student-athletes seeking to benefit from their statistics, the issue for college athletes is the lack of collective bargaining with the conferences and schools. In the NFL’s newest collective bargaining agreement, the NFLPA negotiated for players to share in the revenue generated from player data. At the same time, in MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, the MLBPA negotiated to exclude certain data from any deal, and players are allowed to sign sponsorships with sportsbooks. Thus, unfortunately for student-athletes, the lack of a negotiating opportunity will likely hinder a student-athlete’s ability to earn revenue from any deal.
Overall, the NCAA seems to be embracing sports wagering, which more states are legalizing each year. However, an issue that organizations will continue to discuss is student-athlete compensation for their data. Do they deserve to be compensated? Absolutely. Will they succeed in any lawsuits? If their pursuit is under copyright law, likely not.