In regards to recent developments in the relationship between technological advancements and the business of major college football, it’s been two steps forward and one giant step back. College football technology is here, but it’s being held back for now.
The Nebulous State of College Football Technology
Some programs seem more than ready to embrace new tools that the development of computer hardware and software have made available. But like many other areas, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is holding them back from doing so.
Virtual Reality Engagement and Recruiting Tools
A growing number of schools, like Oklahoma State University, have begun using virtual reality (VR) technology to augment their attempts to attract the top talent to their programs.
Currently, the shape of the Cowboys‘ partnership with Mandt VR is in the form of a 360-video that depicts what the entire experience of being a student-athlete in Stillwater, Okla. would be like for potential recruits. The University of Michigan is reportedly working on a similar experience for recruits.
Other schools have begun using VR tech to connect with alumni and fans. Partnerships between EON Sports and Penn State University and an identical pairing of EON and the University of Miami (Fla.) have given fans unprecedented virtual reality access to coaches, locker rooms and practices.
It’s all about doing whatever you can to get a leg up on the competition for limited talent and dollars. That’s a big part of what has the rush to apply technological advances on hold in some ways, however.
NCAA Tells its Member Institutions to Slow Their Rolls
In February, the NCAA passed a proposal that would have allowed electronic devices in coaching booths and locker rooms for the purpose of coaching for the 2016-17 season. On October 18, the NCAA rescinded that proposal.
An NCAA impact assessment caused a delay in the rule changes. The press release from the NCAA cited reasons for its decision to rescind the proposal as taken from feedback from conference commissioners at all three levels of NCAA football. Among them were, “more time to develop guidelines that would allow for consistent application of the rule, help manage the costs and provide time to see if any unintended consequences develop.”
The cost management and unintended consequences are pivotal in assessing these rule changes. The advancement of technology into college football has huge potential to create a larger rift between the “haves” and the “have-nots” of college football.
The Rich Getting Richer
The University of Tennessee is prepared to incorporate the available technology into its potential renovation plans for Neyland Stadium when the new rules are expected to take effect for the 2017-18 season, and it’s likely that many other schools from Power 5 Conferences would act to take advantage of the new rules in a similar manner.
While home teams would be responsible to ensure that visiting teams have similar access to the technology under the new rules, it’s not hard to imagine that schools outside of the Power 5 would have more difficulty in implementing new technology on the same scale as their Power 5 counterparts.
Implementing the hardware and software necessary, maintaining both aspects, and staying on top of the latest trends as they develop will all require new funding. With larger donor bases and revenue streams, that’s simply much more accessible to Power 5 teams.
Technology has already and will continue to change the landscape of college football. Soon, the programs that get labeled as successful in a sustainable fashion will be those which are able to be the innovators of incorporating tech into their programs successfully.