There was a time, not so long ago, when only professional and big-time college teams provided real-time box scores from their sports contests on the web. But a Brookings, S.D., scoreboard manufacturer is helping to bring glitzy ESPN-style presentation tools to small colleges and even high schools.

When South Dakota held its state high school basketball championships in March, South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s web site used computer software from Daktronics Inc. to provide updates every 30 seconds.

The DakStats webcasts had individual and team statistics, a play-by-play rundown, and a court diagram showing each shot. The site drew more than 20,000 visitors during the three-day tournament, said Jon Grann of Daktronics’ sports products engineering group.

“That’s pretty impressive for South Dakota high school sports,” Grann said. “The people who don’t make it to the games can go online and [follow] the games as they occur.”

Daktronics, which primarily builds electronic scoreboards and video and computer displays, was a late entrant into the statistical software realm, releasing its newer DakStats version about 1997.

Most NCAA schools use the more established Stat Crew program, so Daktronics has focused on building the stats side of its business by hitching small schools to the technology bandwagon.

DakStats is the official software of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the National Junior College Athletic Association, and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Dawn Harmon, NAIA’s sports information director, said Daktronics has allowed the league to improve the accuracy, delivery, and presentation of its statistics.

“They’ve allowed us to make a jump into that technology age even further than we were before,” Harmon said.

With its conferences and most member schools using the same software package, the Kansas-based league can produce weekly reports faster and more accurately, compared with the previous hand-entry method.

“There would be no way [for] us, especially at the national level, [to know] if there was an error, because all we asked for was leaders with the game and your points,” Harmon said. “We didn’t ask for any statistical verification at all. With the DakStats software, there’s a box score for every game, and those box scores from each of those teams match up.”

Grann said DakStats is easy to use and can be run by a volunteer with minimal training. He demonstrated using the DakStats basketball package, the company’s most popular offering.

When a player takes a shot, the computer mouse is rolled to the location on a court diagram.

If the shot was missed, a left-click allows the shooting player to be picked from a pull-down menu. It’ll then ask to choose the rebounder and, if that person is on the other team, automatically records the possession change.

If the shot is made, the player is entered after a right-click on the mouse. If there’s an assist, that player is selected from a menu. Any mistakes can be edited during a stoppage or while play continues.

“It’s that straightforward,” Grann said. “It’ll let you progress through it the way you need to.”

Although high schools can use whatever statistical software they choose, the National Federation of State High School Associations recommends DakStats to its state associations, which in turn recommends it to member schools, said Executive Director Bob Kanaby.

The Indianapolis-based federation wants to help its schools become more fan-friendly by providing timely, professional-looking information, said Kanaby, who added that statistical software has helped the organization compile and maintain its national high school record book.

State athletic associations must sign off on new records, and most do so by verifying information through news articles. But statistics such as yards gained and touchdowns are much better tracked through software, Kanaby said.

Harmon said the NAIA is slowly adding old national championship box scores to improve the accuracy of its records.

“There’s just less room for human error,” she said. “I’m not sure how many of those old records are incorrect because somebody couldn’t add right or a number got dropped.”

Technology also helps get statistics out to fans faster.

Many small colleges and high schools are webcasting regular season games on their internet sites. And they can offset the cost of the software by selling banner ads that air during the webcast, Harmon said.

“You basically just need a laptop, an internet connection that’s better than a dial-up, and that program, and you’re up and going,” she said.

Grann said even more professional-style presentation tools will work their way down to small schools as more colleges and high schools integrate software with their scoreboards. The technology exists for schools with an outdoor message center to show a live score to drivers passing by, for instance.

Eventually, the NAIA wants to let parents and fans sign up for eMail alerts about specific players they want to track.

“If their daughter is playing basketball at Black Hills State, anytime she appears in the stats, they can sign up and that’s eMailed to them,” Harmon said. “So they know to go look.”

Links:

Daktronics
http://www.daktronics.com

DakStats
http://www.dakstats.com

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
http://www.naia.org

National Federation of State High School Associations
http://www.nfhs.org

Stat Crew Software
http://www.statcrew.com/