MAC reaches stats partnership; data could be sold to sports betting companies

In what is being billed as the first deal of its kind in the NCAA, the Mid-American Conference has signed a statistical data partnership and sponsorship agreement with Genius Sports, the league announced Wednesday.

The five-year agreement gives Genius Sports the rights to manage and market the stats for all sports in the conference. And it requires sports betting companies to pay for the MAC's data if they want official statistics in real time, which are used to help set their betting lines.

Conference officials believe this could "start the statistical data ownership era for collegiate athletics," according to a news release.

All five states within the MAC (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio) have legalized sports wagering -- the only FBS league with that status -- but commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the conference didn't form the partnership to promote betting.

"We're doing this to control our data, which ends up in the public domain anyway," Steinbrecher told ESPN. "We want to manage that asset. We want that asset to provide value back to our institutions so that we can support our student-athletes, plain and simple."

There has been a perception in college athletics that NCAA rules prohibit selling statistical data to a sports wagering entity, but the MAC contends that's not the case.

"We are of the opinion that the deal we're entering into is consistent with NCAA rules and regulations," Steinbrecher said.

Genius Sports works with more than 400 sports organizations globally, including the NFL, NASCAR and the PGA. It partners with the NCAA but doesn't sell the data to sportsbooks.