The NFL has announced the details for the inaugural NFL Big Data Bowl, a football analytics competition open to college students and professionals. Entrants will have the opportunity to use the same player tracking data used by teams and suggest ways that data can lead to innovations about how football is played and coached.
Finalists will have the opportunity to present to league and club personnel at the 2019 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the first time non-league personnel will have the opportunity to access NFL player tracking data used by teams to analyze league trends and develop on-field strategies.
Starting Tuesday, Dec. 18, participants can sign up for the competition. There are two categories — an undergraduate/graduate student division and an open division for participants not in higher education. Entrants will be emailed information on how to access the data to begin their submission.
Participants are challenged to rethink player evaluation tools and innovate the way football is played and coached using both traditional and player tracking stats. NFL player tracking, also known as Next Gen Stats, captures real-time location data, and speed and acceleration for every player on every play on every inch of the field. Sensors throughout the stadium track tags placed on players' shoulder pads, charting individual movements within inches.
“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. “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.”
Submissions using NFL-provided data fall under three themes: “Understanding On-Field Speed,” “Proposing a Rule Change” and “Identifying the Best Receiver-Route Combinations.”
The Big Data Bowl is the latest example of the league’s commitment to advancing the game through data science and engineering. 1st and Future presented by Arrow Electronics, the NFL's annual Super Bowl pitch competition, is designed to spur innovation in athlete safety and performance. This year, for the first time, 1st and Future features a new category, the NFL Punt Analytics Competition, which gives applicants access to exclusive NFL data sets to inform creative submissions about rule changes designed to reduce player injury during punt plays.
Eight finalists in the Big Data Bowl — four each from the college student and open categories — will earn an all-expenses paid trip to Indianapolis to showcase their work on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis on the first day of the 2019 Scouting Combine. The eight finalists will have five minutes to present their findings to a panel of NFL staff members, club personnel and industry-leading representatives. They will also participate in an open forum, during which they can answer specific questions related to their findings.
Two grand-prize winners will receive four tickets to any regular-season game of their choice, and a $1,000 gift certificate to NFLShop.com.