Data can be a powerful tool. But it does no one any good if it sits unused in a dusty server.
In an effort to capitalize on the excitement around player performance statistics, which the NBA has used to great success on its own website, the Duke University men’s basketball team decided to use player data it had been gathering over the years and make it public-facing.
Speaking at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Duke University Athletics Director of Digital Media Ryan Craig explained how the department worked with SAP, the university’s IT department and the university’s Fuqua School of Business to create a Web application that allows students to access data on players dating back to 1936 — two years before the first NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The project, called #DukeMBBStats, is an exemplary execution of cross-campus collaboration.
“One of the exciting parts of this project for me was to breach the isolation that athletics departments often find themselves in across the campus,” Craig said. “We went into this with a by-Duke-for-Duke mentality.”
The Fuqua School’s MBA students were put in charge of running the project and making it come to life with SAP and the university’s IT department.
The ultimate goal of the #DukeMBBStats project was to deepen the relationship between the university’s men's basketball program and its fans. At the onset of the initiative, the athletics department was trying to answer a fundamental question: “How do we get people to interact with GoDuke.com, stay in that ecosystem so we’re able to market to them in different ways?” Craig said.
Given the increased focus and buzz around wearable technology and sports analytics, the idea to create a publicly available historical and ongoing database of Duke player stats seemed like a no-brainer.
“Analytics and data visualization is something that a lot of people enjoy, so this project made a lot of sense,” Craig said.
The department hopes the database will not only provide value to current and former students, but also incubate new fans.
#DukeMBBStats is in version 1.0 right now. The university wants to include more robust data from its SportVU player tracking system, which the university was the first in the NCAA to install, and include shot charts, Craig said.
But Craig emphasized that the #DukeMBBStats project couldn’t have succeeded without the collaboration of the university's business school and IT and athletics departments. And it goes to show that by tapping into the talents spread throughout the campus, a university can pull off amazing feats of innovation with technology.