Thought Equity Motion Powers NCAA Hoops Officiating Track

It is said that the best referees go unnoticed, but in today’s age of cutting-edge video technology, it’s becoming nearly impossible for even the best officials in any sport to stay out of the dreaded spotlight.

To further improve referee performance, the NCAA has teamed up again with Thought Equity Motion (TEM) to develop the NCAA Officiating Track, a B2B portal that enables the NCAA to efficiently review every whistle blown during the 2011 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

TEM has utilized the same platform and metadata toolset that powers the consumer-based NCAA Vault that features full games and play-by-play highlights, to create a new track for officials for the NCAA’s internal use.

Photo Courtesy of Thought Equity Motion

The NCAA Officiating Track was built with the same layout and skin as the popular NCAA Vault with metadata and menus altered to cater to the internal needs of NCAA officials and coordinators.

“We are constantly looking to become more efficient in terms of how we operate our championships,” says NCAA director of broadcasting Greg Weitekamp. “So, we were trying to figure out a way to provide our officials coordinators more access in a more timely fashion to make their jobs easier when it comes to looking for clips, posting them online for educational purposes, and also for producing our yearly officiating improvement video.”

The system was built with the same layout and skin as the NCAA Vault, but instead of fan-based tabs and metadata such as best dunks, exciting finishes, and advertising, the architecture is structured around the officials’ calls with each whistle.

“It really fits, philosophically, in something that we try to do with our platform, which is moving from a world of tapes and physical files to a world of a truly digital file-based workflow along with the metadata that then makes those files useful,” says Dan Weiner, VP of marketing and products at Thought Equity Motion.

The Flash-based media player uses a metadata-driven timeline featuring a scrollable menu of all of the game’s calls below the viewing screen that is organized and searchable by school, player, violation, and foul. A linking system also allows users to mark key moments that they wish to share with others via e-mail. Those bookmarks can also be saved and compiled on a list positioned to the right of the player for easy access.

“One of the things that we had to have conversations about was the fact that the in-user is not a producer, so to speak, and is not a person that is used to dealing with editing systems or going into digital asset management systems,” says Weitekamp. “We had to work with Thought Equity to figure out a way to be sure that the in-user could use the system in a way that they understood it.”

The Officiating Track enables coordinators and NCAA referees to easily review and search for calls on-demand. Prior to the implementation of this system, the NCAA used to have to burn DVDs of each requested game and then ship it through the mail, but now designated users can be given access to the portal so they can search for the calls they need to review from any Web browser.

“In the same way that the archive becoming digital is a first step towards [a tapeless world], this is a natural evolution of that, bringing that into a world of web video players and managing web streams that the officials could see right after the games and not dealing with DVDs,” says Weiner.

Thought Equity Motion utilizes its T3 Platform to log the live streams of games and to set all of the crucial metadata for the Officiating Track and then stores the content in its platform.

Hosted in a secure, cloud-based portal, the NCAA Officiating Track hopes to improve performance of college basketball referees, but it could also change how all leagues critique and educate their officials.

“We’ve taken a great first step with Thought Equity in making this process more seamless in using their technology platform and it will continue to improve,” says Weitekamp, “and as our officials coordinators continue to get more comfortable with the technology, it will continue to become more and more efficient for them.”

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