IU graduate Mark Cuban donates $5 million to IU

  • June 8, 2015

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Mike Miller

 What began as a brainstorming mission to improve his own team transformed into a $5 million gift from Mark Cuban to his alma mater.

Now, Indiana University is in position to become the leader in the field of virtual reality sports technology.

The IU athletic department announced Friday that Cuban will donate funds to create a state-of-the-art sports media and broadcast technology center to be housed in the west side of Assembly Hall. The center will be named after Cuban and is expected to open by the spring of 2017. Other parts of the project will be rolled out this fall.

Cuban’s donation also means Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium will receive technological benefits, including cameras for enhanced three-dimensional and 360-degree replays during games. Coaches and players will have access to the same views to analyze and evaluate practices.

IU athletic director Fred Glass said during a ceremony Friday at the Henke Hall of Champions that Cuban’s donation will make Indiana the first school in the country to utilize these sports broadcast and virtual reality technologies.

“Whatever I give to IU, it will only be a fraction of what Indiana University gave to me,” said Cuban, a 1981 graduate of the Kelley School of Business. “There aren’t enough words, there aren’t enough thank-yous for all I learned here about life, about myself and continuing my education.”

Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, originally aimed to use the same technology to gain a competitive advantage in the NBA. He began looking into analytics to make free agent recruitment and trades more efficient. He wanted to offer avenues that would assist his coaching staff and player development department, and he wanted to give fans a unique experience at Mavericks home games.

Then, after discussions with Glass and associate athletic director Anthony Thompson, he decided to share the same ideas and technology with Indiana, and the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology was born. The 3-D replay and broadcast technology will be in place for the upcoming basketball season. Glass said he was hopeful it would appear in Memorial Stadium by this fall, but could not guarantee implementation until 2016.

“The center will open along with Assembly Hall when it comes online,” Glass said. “I want to emphasize that this is really a program and training technology. The physical assets, if you will — the buildout — will be comparatively modest. Modest, but cool.”

With Cuban’s gift, IU will make substantial investments in cameras, lighting kits, audio technology, video editing stations and broadcast equipment. Students will have 24-hour access to the center, and coaches will have opportunities to create video packages to enhance recruiting efforts.

The center will receive support from IU’s Media School, IU Radio TV Services, the School of Informatics and the Advanced Visualization Lab. In a news release, IU officials said Cuban, who founded Broadcast.com in 1995 and later sold it to Yahoo for $5.6 billion, will have input to shape the direction of the project. Cuban said Friday that he’d look to one day hire the same students who will soon take advantage of the technology and training.

“His involvement in this venture is a natural,” Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said. “There’s probably no one better that could’ve been involved in this.”

Friday’s announcement offered a peek into the power of the technology. Stations inside the Henke Hall of Champions allowed people to wear virtual reality goggles to experience different campus landmarks, sound included. Folks could stand on the 50-yard line at Memorial Stadium and look toward the end zone, or watch the water display at Showalter Fountain. Each view was in synch with the direction of a person’s pupils, allowing a change of scenery with simple and subtle movements.

During games, this kind of technology will allow replays to take on angles that let the viewer go around the action, above it and in between the players.

IU students will also produce content that includes virtual reality videos for fans, social media, videoboard displays and athlete instruction.

“I know my diploma is set to come in the mail soon,”  2015 IU graduate Will Chukerman said, “but I’ve got to find some loophole to get some sort of college eligibility left so that I can use this state-of-the-art facility.”