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Report: NFL to Host Inaugural Big Data Bowl to Crowdsource Ideas for Rule Changes

26 Feb, 2019


According to SportTechie, the NFL’s inaugural Big Data Bowl will be held at the 2019 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The league announced the news in a press release.

The combine begins on February 27, 2019.

The football analytics competition will award two winners with four tickets to any regular-season game of their choice, and a $1,000 gift certificate to NFLShop.com.

Upon signing up for the competition, entrants will receive an email from the NFL providing access to the same player tracking data used by NFL teams to capture real-time location, speed, and acceleration during games. From there, the NFL wants participants to submit ideas suggesting innovations to how football is played and coached, while addressing one of the three “themes” assigned by the NFL. Those themes are listed as: Understanding On-Field Speed, Proposing a Rule Change, and Identifying the Best Receiver-Route Combinations.

“As the sports analytics community continues to expand and progress, we are excited to host an analytics competition focusing on creative and innovative ways to approach and use football data,” said Damani Leech, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Football Strategy and Business Development, in a statement.

Interested participants must complete a registration form and submit their report by Jan. 22 to be eligible for the competition. Entrants can compete as an individual or group consisting of four members or less. Competition is divided into two categories—an undergraduate or graduate student division and an open division for participants not currently in higher education.

“The NFL and its clubs’ use of football analytics continues to grow and focusing the competition on college students and young professionals allows us to hear from the next generation of young minds that will help shape the industry in the years to come,” Leech added.

Eight finalists—four from each category—will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Indianapolis on Feb. 27, the first day of the 2019 NFL Combine. They will be asked to present their findings in front of a judging panel made up of NFL front office staff and team executives. After a five-minute presentation, finalists will host an open forum to answer specific questions about their ideas. The two grand-prize winners will then present to a live audience and club staff.

SportTechie Takeaway: The Big Data Bowl could be a clever way for the NFL to encourage fans to take an interest in data analytics and also help the league discover new ways to improve the way the game is played. Since 2014, the NFL has worked with Zebra Technologies to equip its stadiums with RFID (radio frequency identification signals) technology that tracks and records the real-time movements of all players using chips embedded under their shoulder pads. A few weeks before the Big Data Bowl is held on Feb. 27, the NFL will also host its inaugural Punt Analytics Competition to crowdsource punt safety ideas.

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