Nielsen Sports to Rank College Teams’ NIL Capabilities, Could Impact a Recruit’s Decision-Making

By Dominic Massimino

The media valuation and analytic company Nielsen Sports has launched a new solution called the Nielsen Impact Score (NIS), which measures an athletic program’s value on player marketability under the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. 

NIS evaluates college programs based on their national exposure, local market impact and social media engagement — three paramount metrics to maximize an athlete’s exposure and ability to secure endorsements from companies under NIL rules. Nielsen has made the solution available to almost 100 NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs across major conferences, with plans to expand to other sports in the future. 

Duke University men’s basketball program is the first to utilize Nielsen’s scoring system, hoping recruits will understand the marketing power of playing for a five-time national champion. Through its Nielson score, Duke will be able to promote the NIL opportunities a player might have at the school compared to others. 

“The Nielsen Impact Score and corresponding data is another way to position our basketball program to potential future Blue Devils by sharing the true data points in their own marketability,” Duke Men’s Basketball Creative Director David Bradley said in a statement. “When we say ‘bright lights, biggest stage,’ we will have comprehensive data to show what that means to a future college basketball player.”

Ohio State Lineman Harry Miller Sells His Buckeye Merch Online, Donates All His NIL Money to Nicaraguan Children

By Tom Friend

The NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness rule has led to unexpected spinoff: humanitarian work.

Ohio State’s junior offensive lineman Harry Miller, in an effort to supply medication and nutrition to poor Nicaraguan children, announced Monday he will gift every penny earned via NILs to “Mission For Nicaragua”—a faith-based charity organization with ties to Central America.

This past summer, Miller—the starting center on the Buckeye’s 2020 national runner-up team— sold merchandise via an online store and donated more than $1,000 in proceeds to the Nicaraguan charity.

Miller has made upwards of 10 mission trips since he was in 7th grade and was recently named to the exclusive college football Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. According to his Allstate bio, Miller is also “a member of the board for the Imagination School in Los Brasiles, a neighborhood outside of Managua, Nicaragua.’’

Locally, in Columbus, Ohio, the bio says Miller “volunteers with the 2nd and 7 Foundation, an organization whose outreach includes reading to elementary school students, and Bernie’s Book Bank, which distributes free books to children in need.’’

However, until the NIL rule passed—enabling him to monetize his on-field exploits—Miller was unable to help financially until recently.

Brady’s Buc(k)s Are Bitcoin: QB Gets His 600th Career TD Gameball Back From Fan in Exchange for Cryptocurrency

By Tom Friend

Apparently, Tom Brady gets good blocking and blockchain.

After Brady tossed his 600th career touchdown pass on Sunday, the receiver who caught it—Mike Evans—unknowingly climbed up a stadium railing and gifted the ball to 29-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan Byron Kennedy.

Memorabilia experts immediately salivated. According to Phil Castinetti, owner of Sportsworld USA in Saugus, Mass., Brady’s 600th TD game-ball “in this memorabilia market—which is red-hot—would probably sell, to the right person, for $2-to-$3 million. It’s a phenomenal piece. It’s something that’s never going to be duplicated.’’

Another expert, director of acquisitions for Lelands Auctions Jordan Gilroy, claims the ball could have sold Monday for between $500,000 and $700,000 or perhaps $1 million.

Rather than shop the football to the highest bidder, Kennedy agreed to return it to Brady for a package that includes Bucs season tickets; two jerseys and a helmet signed by Brady; a jersey signed by Evans; a pair of Evans’ game cleats; and a $1,000 credit to the Buccaneers team store.

But, during Monday night’s ESPN “Manningcast’’ with Peyton and Eli Manning, Brady said he sweetened the deal even more than first believed.

“Byron lost all his leverage when he gave up the ball,’’ said Brady, laughing. “He should’ve held it…[But] I’m also giving him a Bitcoin. That’s pretty cool, too. So at the end of the day, I think he’s making out pretty well.’’

According to reports, the cryptocurrency Brady is gifting Kennedy is currently worth just under $63,000.

Houston Mattress King Made Huge Legal Bets on Astros in June, Can Win a Record $35.6 Million if Team Wins World Series

By Tom Friend

A Houston mattress mogul stands to win $35.6 million if the Astros win the upcoming World Series, which would purportedly be the biggest legalized-gambling payout ever.

Jim McIngvale, better known in Houston business circles as “Mattress Mack,’’ bet a total of $3.5 million on the Astros back in June at four separate sportsbooks, including a $2 million wager at 10/1 from Caesars that would pay him $20 million.

After the Astros clinched the ALCS last week, McIngvale approached Caesars and FanDuel—with whom he made a $1 million bet at 10/1 odds—to see if they would consider potential buyouts. He said Caesars’ policy is to not partake in cash-outs, while FanDuel offered him $5.5 million.

“If this was a regular bet, I might take it,’’ McIngvale told The Action Network. “But I have too much involved in the Astros right now.’’

With legalized betting on the rise in the U.S., McIngvaleowner of Houston’s Gallery Furniture outletstraditionally makes grandiose wagers on the Astros as protection from his annual store promotion: free mattresses for customers who spend $3,000 or more on merchandise should the Astros win the world title. Considering lines at his stores were out the door this weekend, McIngvale believes it will cost him in the “mid 20- millions’’ if the team defeats the Atlanta Braves.

The Astros, whose odds to win the World Series were as low as 16/1 in June, are now prohibitive favorites to win the title. According to BetMGM, Houston is favored at -145, while the Braves are at +120. The Series starts Tuesday in Houston.

Ōura Releases a New Sensor-Laden Ring Emphasizing Women’s Health

By Joe Lemire

Ōura Health, which makes a finger-worn biometric tracker, has released the third generation of its ring with live heart rate reporting, more granular temperature sensing and enhanced menstrual tracking and predicting. The new device makes women’s health a priority.

The Gen 3 Oura ring includes more temperature sensors than its predecessors and the implementation of red and green LEDs to monitor heart rate. In all, the device has triple the sensors—including the infrared ones—and 32 times the memory of Gen 2.

Some additional features in development are improved workout heart rate monitoring and more sophisticated sleep stage tracking, as well as the addition of blood oxygen sensing. Also in the works is an extensive audio and video library to help users better understand their personal data.

Oura rings have shown some efficacy in identifying signs of particular illnesses—including COVID-19—prior to the onset of symptoms. The NBA and NBPA partnered with Oura to provide wearable technology to all residents of last summer’s Disney Bubble for that purpose. NASCAR and the World Surf League also offered their athletes the rings.

“With the Oura Ring Gen3, we’re challenging the evolution of the wearables industry,” Oura CEO Harpreet Singh Rai said in a statement. “In addition to being one of the most accurate sleep trackers in the world, we’ve now added daytime heart rate and workout heart rate. But more importantly, we’ve remained committed to further researching our community’s most pressing problems. From investing in illness detection to women’s health, we see Oura functioning as a single tool to track and guide your holistic health, translating your body’s hidden messages to improve how you feel, day and night.”

The NFL Continues to Invest in Head Safety, Awards Nearly 500K Each to Three Helmet Innovators

By Joe Lemire

The NFL awarded grants of roughly a half a million dollars each to the three winning entrants of the NFL Helmet Challenge, a two-year competition intended to crowdsource innovation in helmet performance. The three teams were Xenith, a major youth helmet manufacturer with two models already rated in the league’s top safety tier, as well as two startups: Impressio and Kollide. They all performed up to 13% better than the current top-ranked NFL helmet.

The prototype Xenith constructed for the Helmet Challenge expands upon the collaboration with Rheon Labs, which makes a polymer that stiffens upon impact and has novel absorption qualities. That Rheon material is already present in the Xenith Shadow XR, which is rated seventh on the NFL/NFLPA safety list (although it is worn by only a small number of players).

Impressio used a liquid-crystal elastomer (LCE) and additive manufacturing capabilities (otherwise known as 3D printing) for its helmet submission; the Denver-based company has previously received grant money in two prior NFL-backed competitions, the 1st and Future and HeadHealthTECH Challenge. Kollide, which was founded in Montreal with an expertise in industrial design, leverages an organic 3D printed mesh along with additive manufacturing.

Kollide earned $550,000, Xenith received $496,500 and Impressio was awarded $454,000 in this final portion of the competition. In all, the NFL allocated $3 million for the Helmet Challenge, with $1.37 million given out last year to aid the development of these prototypes.

You Can Never Have Enough ‘Mojo’; the Coaching Platform Adds Jr. NBA

By Joe Lemire

Digital youth coaching platform Mojo has added another significant partner: the Jr. NBA. The deal allows Mojo major entry into basketball, following earlier forays into soccer with FC Barcelona and football with NFL Flag.

The Jr. NBA is the youth development program for the NBA and WNBA, and it will use Mojo to supplement the coaching curriculum with the app’s library of more than 120 activities. There are a variety of drills, exercises and games, with the first batch of content recently recorded inside the Sacramento Kings’ home venue, the Golden 1 Center.

Founded by former Disney Media Networks co-chair Ben Sherwood, Mojo strives to help youth coaches—particularly parent coaches—who may need additional resources to plan engaging and instructive practices. The app is free to parent coaches, with subscription pricing for others training at home. Mojo and the Jr. NBA will also provide $250,000 worth of free home subscriptions to families across the U.S. 

VALD Adds Fusion Sport Technologies SmartSpeed and SmartJump

By Joe Lemire

Human performance company VALD has acquired a pair of measurement technologies from fellow Australian sports tech company Fusion Sport—adding the SmartSpeed Laser Timing Gate System and SmartJump Portable Jump Mat system to its portfolio of devices.

Fusion Sport unveiled SmartSpeed, a wireless timing system used in major sports leagues across the globe, back in 2004 and SmartJump in 2006. It released its signature product, the Smartabase athlete management system, in 2011 and sold its earlier creations in order to focus on its core business. Fusion Sport’s co-founder and CEO Markus Deutsch said in a statement that interest in Smartabase was “exploding” and that VALD was “a natural fit” for SmartSpeed and SmartJump.

Brisbane-based VALD already offers its own dual force plate system, the ForceDecks, as well as the NordBord hamstring testing system and other devices. VALD CEO Laurie Malone indicated in a statement that he hopes to democratize the collection of data by making the technologies accessible. 

“You’re probably going to see some different things in relation to pricing models and making it more affordable,” Malone said. “There really should be no barrier for performance centers or elite teams to have multiple suites of equipment collecting data.”

Drone Racing League Will Hold Championship Race on Las Vegas Strip During Consumer Electronics Show

By Joe Lemire

The Drone Racing League will hold its season-ending championship race on the Las Vegas Strip during the opening night of January’s Consumer Electronics Show.

CES is returning as an in-person trade show and conference this winter, and the DRL will stage a 12-drone racing finale through an aerial course with scale gates around the T-Mobile Arena. The location is intentional: T-Mobile is the DRL’s 5G partner, and many of the visual elements will be in the telecommunications company’s trademark magenta. This is also the first of five seasons in which the DRL championship season is sponsored by Algorand, a blockchain platform.

“Our Championship Race will showcase the incredible collaboration between T-Mobile and the Drone Racing League on the greatest stage for the world’s top technology leaders,” DRL president Rachel Jacobson said in a statement. “Our must-attend event will unveil groundbreaking technology, cutting edge sports competition and visually stunning entertainment.”

The DRL championship will take place on Jan. 5, 2022 but will be broadcast on NBC and Twitter on Feb. 12 and 20. 

A collegiate racing team from Germany won Saturday’s Autonomous Competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after its algorithm code produced an estimated lap time of 129.2 kilometers per hour, the equivalent of 80 mph.

Technical University of Munich, which earned $1 million for its victory, was one of nine university teams entered in the driver-less competition —in which each crew was given a Formula One-like Dallara IL-15 automobile, along with a GPS system, radars, cameras and sensors.

At that point, each team’s engineering students had to program approximately 40,000 lines of code to ignite their car’s engines and then communicate via AI with a computer embedded in the driver’s seat. The nine cars then raced individually, one after the other, at the Brickyard.

Paul Mitchell, CEO of the race’s co-sponsor Energy Systems Network, told the Daily Mail that a goal of the event was to prove “autonomous technology can work at extreme conditions.’’ Another hope was to show people that driver-less cars can be trusted. A survey by Morning Consult in September discovered that 47 percent of American believe autonomous cars are unsafe in comparison to human-driven cars.

According to Sergio Matteo Savaresi, a professor at Politecnico di Milano, people may now be less afraid of a driver-less car at “50 kilometers per hour’’ if they “get used to seeing cars like these going 300 kilometers per hour [roughly 184 mph] and don’t crash.’’

A driver-less car controlled by a Politecnico-University of Alabama combo team reportedly exceeded 100 mph in a record-setting test drive earlier in the week.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s event, the nine teams will now share their code-building expertise with other colleges. “You’re going to take some of the most advanced AI algorithms ever developed for autonomous vehicles and put it out there for the industry, for startups, for other universities to build on,’’ Mitchell told the Daily Mail.

The robot dog Spot, from Boston Dynamics, waved the starting flag for Saturday’s races.

NHL’s Seattle Kraken Open Climate Pledge Arena to Huge Crowd, Small Food Lines

By Tom Friend

The NHL’s latest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, christened the new Climate Pledge Arena Saturday night, and the unique $1 billion venue —advertised as the world’s first net-zero carbon arena— did not disappoint from a hospitality perspective.

Despite losing 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, a sell-out crowd of 17,151 gave the building largely rave reviews, particularly the “Just Walk Out’’ cashier-less technology courtesy of Amazon.

Selected stores inside the venue were equipped with sensors and cameras that eliminated the need for human cashiers, and Amazon —which has naming rights to the arena— also deployed its one palm-scanning technology that allows customers to pay with the waving of their hand.

“It’s fantastic, there’s no line,’’ one fan told GeekWire. “I got a beer in eight seconds.’’

The Kraken also have activated an app that allows patrons to buy team merchandise from their seats and have the items dropped off to a convenient location for instant pickup.