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NFL Launches Second Annual Big Data Bowl Competition


By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 26 June 2020

The NFL today announced the launch of the second annual Big Data Bowl, calling on college students and experts to devise innovative approaches to analyzing rushing plays. The NFL captures real-time data for every player, on every play, in every situation, and by crowdsourcing insights into this data, the Big Data Bowl aims to analyze and rethink trends in player performance and innovate the way football is played and coached.

Data and analytics are the underpinning of the NFL’s work, including in the creation of rules changes and in monitoring player and team performance. Through two upcoming crowd-sourcing initiatives, the league is calling on enthusiastic fans and data scientists to participate in its annual Big Data Bowl and 1st & Future competitions, both hosted on Kaggle.

Beginning today, participants can sign up for the Big Data Bowl here.  Analysts are challenged to devise an algorithm to predict how many yards a ball carrier will gain on rushing plays, using game and play characteristics, as well as Next Gen Stats player tracking data from the moment a handoff is made.

New this year, during Weeks 13 through 17, participants will be a part of a live leaderboard posted on Kaggle that scores competitors each week based on how accurately their algorithm predicted the ball carrier performance. The top three submissions on Kaggle will share $75,000 in prize money.

In addition to the open contest, undergraduate and graduate student participants are also eligible to participate in an additional competition in which they share their methods and results with NFL team analytics staffers. The top collegiate finalists will be chosen based on a combination of innovation, accuracy, relevance and clarity. This portion of the competition will culminate with in-person presentations at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February 2020.

“The NFL uses data and analytics across all aspects of our business,” said NATARA HOLLOWAY, NFL Vice President of Football Strategy and Business Development. “While teams may use data to help improve their playbooks, we use it to track trends and develop insights to improve and monitor on-field performance. The Big Data Bowl allows us to find new ways of using football data and create a pipeline of talent for the next generation of industry leaders.”

Following the 2019 Big Data Bowl, eleven participants were later hired by NFL clubs or affiliate vendors and similar opportunities for participants are expected this year.

Following the 2019 Big Data Bowl, eleven participants were later hired by NFL clubs or affiliate vendors and similar opportunities for participants are expected this year.

Next month, the league will announce the opening of the fifth annual 1st and Futurepart of the league’s annual Super Bowl pitch competition designed to spur innovation in athlete safety and performance. Last year’s event also featured the NFL Punt Analytics Competition, which gave participants access to exclusive NFL injury data to inform creative ideas for rule changes that, backed by data, could reduce player injury during punt plays.

These proposals were shared with the NFL’s Competition Committee and this year’s challenge will again give data scientists and fans the chance to help drive advancements in the way the game is played.

For more information on how to sign up for the 2020 Big Data Bowl, click here.