MLL Commissioner Talks Draft, Media Rights, Moneyball, Stadiums, Gambling and PLL

Major League Lacrosse Commissioner Sandy Brown (left)

Major League Lacrosse is in the good hands of Commissioner Alexander “Sandy” Brown. The Sports Techie community blog welcomed the opportunity to chat with Sandy today about the state of the league. The upcoming MLL 2019 Collegiate Draft presented by Cascade on March 9 is hosted by the NASCAR Hall-of-Fame in what the Commish calls, “a great weekend of lacrosse.” The excitement of drafting in Charlotte, N.C. during March for the first time coupled with the new Crown Lacrosse Classic is creating a buzz throughout the southeast and beyond. We also spoke about MLL media broadcast distribution plans, Moneyball and the league’s migration towards the increased use of analytics across performance and business, lacrosse-only stadiums, and legal sport gambling. Finally, we touched upon the launch of the new Premier Lacrosse League (PLL).  Ultimately, Brown wants to focus on running his league. I like what I am seeing from MLL’s tech-savvy Commish.


MLL Commissioner Sandy Brown and Rob Pannell (New York Lizards #3)

MLL Collegiate Draft

“With a highly anticipated class of NCAA seniors set to be selected for the 2019 MLL Collegiate Draft presented by Cascade, we are excited to put on a show that aligns with the talent joining our league this summer,” said Brown.

Sandy talked about moving the season to start on June first. This allows his coaches and GMs to watch college players on ESPN for 5-6 weeks before the new draft date in March.

MLL is working closely with New York Lizards owner Andrew Murstein, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, to design a unique experience for the fans.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cascade for the 2019 MLL Collegiate Draft and to open the draft up to the public,” said Buddy Rose, MLL Director of Events. “Our priority is creating the best experience for all stakeholders at all of our events. We are excited to debut immersive experiences with the league, immersive experiences with NASCAR, and an unbelievable show.”

Attendees will be able to experience all that the NASCAR Hall of Fame has to offer, including state-of-the-art racing simulators, galleries telling the story of NASCAR’s exciting 70-plus year history, and a full-size transporter, giving visitors a first-hand look at the team’s nerve-center at the track.

“We are very excited that MLL has selected the NASCAR Hall of Fame as the location for the 2019 Collegiate Draft presented by Cascade,” said Winston Kelley, Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “We have hosted many very special and unique events and the MLL draft is certainly a premier event that we’re honored to serve as the host location.”

The live event features MLL team representatives from every team.

The super charged MLL draft is free of charge to attend.

Lax Sports Network (LSN)  is broadcasting the draft with live streaming starting at 7pm E.T.

Crown Lacrosse Classic

Brown is equally excited about the Crown Lacrosse Classic played on Friday and Sunday of draft weekend as the draft itself. The MLL is working alongside Schiller during the Crown Lacrosse Classic.

This is the first independent college lacrosse tournament for Charlotte and features four of the nation’s premier programs – Cornell, Jacksonville, Penn State, and Towson. The Classic is highlighted by three lacrosse teams ranked in the preseason Top 25. Watch for top MLL prospects Zach Goodrich (Towson), Jack McCulloch (Cornell), and Chris Sabia (Penn State), to play in the round-robin tournament.

Media Partners

The Collegiate Draft is set to broadcast live on the Lax Sports Network. I asked Brown about the significance LSN has had covering the sport and helping to grow the game. He said, “Like ESPN, LSN is 24/7 lacrosse, the place to go for info and coverage of certain college games, studio content. LSN covers a large part of MLL games. It’s like any other sport that has one mouthpiece for broadcast.”

ESPN2 is also broadcasting games with a game of the week streaming on ESPN+. Regional Sports Network (RSN) is another distribution partner.

I asked if they had plans to stream games and events directly to fans device via OTT. Brown felt MLL needs broad distribution and with that, the need for greater promotion and stimulation of people to attend more games. A broader based distribution equates to more eyeballs, something a direct to consumer model does not meet, according to Brown.

Moneyball

Kinduct is now the official health and performance software platform of MLL as the league moves towards improving the use of data and better measuring of athletes.

MLL is located in Boston. The league office and teams are in the process of updating infrastructure and standardizing league data across training and rehab through the use of wearables together with Kinduct.

The Atlanta Blaze has two Analytics experts on staff signifying the shift in importance to teams. Brown shared news that Blaze owner, Andre Gudger, Founder and CEO of the technology investment company, Eccalon are working together on a proprietary stats platform for the league. The MLL needs a robust data platform that’s scalable.

“By providing more data, it allows us to be able to help doctors take better job taking care of players. More data available is better for the league and players,” said Brown.

Lacrosse Only Stadium

I wanted to know if requiring lacrosse-only stadiums were part of future MLL expansion plans. The Ohio Machine, owners on the first draft pick in 2019, partnered with the Village of Obetz on Fortress Obetz, on the first lacrosse-first facility. Brown explained how a AAA ballpark holds about 10,000 fans which is about their attendance sweet spot. The MLL plays in Mile-High Stadium in Denver which seats 70,000 while most their stadiums are in the 30,000 seat range. “The ideal facility is one that enables the best activations for sponsor partners,” said Brown.

Gambling

As commissioner, Sandy has interest in sports betting. He feels the league has to grow more to be applicable. When that happens look for Brown to look into new opportunities in the exploding space.

Premier Lacrosse League

The PLL was founded by Paul Rabil and backed by Comcast. Out of respect to Sandy, I decided to wait until our discussion was almost over to ask about the new competition. Brown did not have much to say about the PLL or NBC Sports.

What he did share is the following, “I have a business to run and focus on. I came last year, made changes to make better experiences for fans. Can’t worry about others, need to worry about our own league, we have great tradition, strong capital base and great owners.  I’m excited for the upcoming year, we are in lacrosse season, and have the draft upcoming.”

MLL Draft 2018 Commissioner Brown

Sports Techie, Sandy and I are about the same age. He played midfield at Washington and Lee University; I played the same position at Whittier College. When I asked if he still plays lacrosse it was partly to motivate myself to get out there and run! Brown told me he had fun getting out there last summer and may look into playing some Masters games next summer. Sandy was surprised he could still do a few things on the field. We both laughed this up as aging warriors do.

The importance of Southeast lacrosse is a story to keep an eye on regarding the MLL.

I asked Brown about the immersive experiences at the Collegiate Draft in Charlotte. He said, “Great market, lot of interest in lacrosse, more (interest) in the deep south. Hounds have been there eight years. Helps promote the game and league.”

He added, “If you are Charlotte, come to the draft presented by Cascade and come to the Crown Classic in the Queen city.”

I concur.

See ya later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!

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