The Duke University men’s basketball team — the Blue Devils — is one of the preeminent and arguably most well-known college programs in the nation. Mention “Coach K” to anyone with even a fleeting interest in the game, and instantly they know you mean Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose 41-year coaching career includes five national championships, a dozen Final Four appearances, and a well-earned place as the winningest coach in men’s Division I college basketball history. Its all-time roster is dotted with some of the game’s most iconic players, including Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick, Shane Battier, and Elton Brand.
With its exalted status as basketball royalty, Duke enjoys the support of a passionate, worldwide fan base with an almost insatiable need to devour any information about their Blue Devils. To satisfy this need, Duke Athletics undertook an initiative to provide a best-in-class website and statistics portal intended as a one-stop shop to answer any possible question and provide information that even the most ardent fan could possibly want about the men’s basketball program — including individual game scores, season stats, year-by-year breakdowns, and player or team stats, rankings, and records.
A New Fan Experience
The result, #DukeMBBStats — accessible via www.goduke.com — went live on February 28, 2017, to coincide with the team’s final home game of the season. The landing page, through which fans can access a trove of data dating back to the inaugural 1906 season, is running on SAP HANA, SAP’s in-memory database. Designed with a mobile-first philosophy but responsive on any device, the site offers fans an interactive experience where they can drill down into the data in a seemingly endless permutation of options. When looking at overall individual season highs, for example, a drop-down menu gives fans 16 aggregation options — everything from field goal percentage to defensive rebounds. Without leaving the landing page, fans could opt instead to look at team highs and lows or game leaders for any game. With integration to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social media platforms, fans can then easily share what they’ve uncovered with fellow Cameron Crazies, which is what the student fans have appropriately been dubbed after years of creating havoc in Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils play their home games.
“We wanted it to be a way for anyone who considers themselves to be a part of the Duke community to engage passionately and knowledgably with our program,” says Ryan Craig, Executive Director, Digital Strategy, Duke Athletics. “People crave that connection to the program, and this was intended to allow them to know as much as they possibly can about the team and the program on their own terms.”
#DukeMBBStats also includes data from STATS SportVU, which is a camera system that tracks the positions of players and the ball in real time. A staple at every NBA arena, Duke was the first to install the camera system in a college venue. At its most basic level, the technology can be used as a shot tracker, analyzing the exact location on the floor where every shot was taken. If a fan wants to see how many shots Grayson Allen made from the paint in the home game against Wake Forest, the information is readily available in about two clicks.
Designing an Innovative Game Plan
While #DukeMBBStats went live in February 2017, the idea germinated about a decade ago when Curtis Snyder, Craig’s predecessor by a few iterations, had an idea to digitize any historical record he could find dating back to 1906. During his off hours, Snyder, who is now the Director of Digital Strategy at the University of Colorado, would visit libraries and pore through microfilm, hunt down old newspaper box scores, and dig through basement libraries to create electronic records.
“He was really the godfather of the project,” says Craig. “What we’re carrying out now is very much in line with his original vision for what this could become. Essentially, what we’ve done by taking those digitized records and putting them on SAP HANA is breathe new life into them, refresh the concepts for a mobile-first fan base, and provide a cleaner, friendlier user experience.”
I’m as proud of the process as I am of the results. We’ve built a tremendous foundation that is repeatable and expandable.
— Ryan Craig, Executive Director of Digital Strategy, Duke University Athletics
Duke University has run its mission-critical processes on SAP ERP for 18 years, and the established partnership between SAP and the university, Craig says, was the deciding factor for turning to SAP again when the athletic department decided to run with Snyder’s initial digital efforts and create a modern, mobile-first, one-stop statistics portal. The discussions started about three years before the February go-live, Craig says, while the migration project started in earnest early in 2016. Duke partnered with LSI Consulting as its implementation and consultative partner. Frank Wheeler, SAP Head of Business Development for North America, was the point person from SAP to see the project through. Wheeler’s previous experience in bringing SAP to sports includes similar roles helping the National Basketball League (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) redesign their statistics archives on the SAP HANA database. Duke’s was the first such effort at the collegiate level.
“The SAP technology is obviously well-established in the space and speaks for itself, and it’s a great fit for what we needed,” Craig says. “I’m as proud of the process as I am of the results. We’ve built a tremendous foundation that is repeatable and expandable.”