DURHAM — Paper is so 2011.
Case in point: Duke’s decision to turn completely digital, eschewing 500-page playbook binders in favor of about 120 iPad 2s. The Blue Devils are one of a handful of college programs – Ohio State, Stanford and Syracuse are among the others – to curb their paper habit and embrace the latest wave of technology.
During the summer, every player was issued an iPad with the Playbook for iPad application, produced by Baltimore-based Global Apptitude. Inside the application is Duke’s playbook, along with the preseason camp itinerary, schedule and any medical information from trainers.
“It’s a great advantage,” defensive lineman Justin Foxx said. “I think we’ll see a lot of improvements, just the efficiency of the plays and knowing more stuff so we can get more done off the field so we can be better on the field.”
The digital movement started in the NFL in 2010, when Global Apptitude partnered with the Baltimore Ravens (one of the start-up’s partners, Randy Fusee, is the brother of the Ravens director of information technology, Nick Fusee). The app went live for the 2011 season.
Now, about one-third of the NFL uses Playbook, including the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys, Global Apptitude partner Jeff Teles said.
Duke’s relationship with Global Apptitude started when Fusee emailed Tom Long, the Blue Devils’ football director of information technology. Long and his assistant, Adam Barkley, saw the product first-hand about two weeks later at the Collegiate Sports Video Association convention in May.
“It blew me away,” Long said. “Once I saw everything that it could do, I knew it was something that everybody would want to do here.”
Instead of a flat piece of paper with arrows, Xs and Os, a play in the Playbook app comes with a video tab at the top of the screen, giving players the option of seeing the play in action.
Before, players would have to come to the football facilities to watch video, with a last-second meeting called by the coaches always a possibility. Now, coaches can digitally send players video with the click of a button.
Desmond Scott, switching from running back to receiver, said he has reviewed film on flights in his spare time.
Should the players have idle time when they are in the Yoh Football Center, though, they won’t have any problems connecting to the Internet, as the team recently installed 10 WiFi routers throughout the facility.
“For most of the guys, it seems to be better for them,” Long said. “I walk around and it’s awesome to see guys in the training room, watching video on it. Before, a big binder was a big binder, and they weren’t using it unless they were in a meeting room. It gives them more of an opportunity and a desire to actually look at the stuff that we give them.”
Thanks to a school discount, Duke purchase each iPad for about $360. Ultimately, the move will save the Blue Devils money, as they’ve been able to drastically reduce printing costs.
“It’s a lot lighter,” defensive linemen Sydney Saramiento said, comparing the iPad to his old binder. “And easier to keep up with.”
The iPads are also more secure. Each iPad has a passcode, and the app has another username and password. Get the password wrong three times, and the iPad is locked until Long resets it.
While Duke is among the early adopters in the digital movement, Teles, the Global Apptitude partner, said the company expects to have 30 to 40 colleges on board by next season.
“A lot of the college players use this technology in their everyday lives anyways,” Teles said. “It’s a very natural fit for them.”
For coaches, too. Coach David Cutcliffe said he took his to the beach this summer and did some early scouting of Florida International.
It’s just another means to reach the desired end.
“Everything we do, from the playbook to what we are going to plan in practice, to treatment in the training room is about one thing: scoring more points than the other team,” he said. “Don’t try to complicate it.”