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College sports apps keep expanding

The mobile application market continues to grow.

According to market research firm Gartner, Apple's App Store sold 2.5 billion applications in 2009, and it's projected to sell 4.2 billion this year, good for a cool $6.8 billion in profit.

And with so much money up for grabs, it's a no-brainer the sports world is becoming increasingly involved. I've previously highlighted Rock Software's development of iPhone applications for professional athletes such as Chad Ochocinco, as well as upcoming ones for the likes of Dwight Howard in this space.

But what about the college racket?

Well, Smartphones Technologies is now in the game, as its line of "College SuperFan" iPhone apps launched at the end of February.

It has partnered with about 80 schools, including the likes of Kentucky, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA and Georgetown. For $1.99, a user gets team-specific news articles, real-time scoring, schedules, polls, standings and message-board functionality for football and basketball.

"We're trying to create a great fan experience; we're trying to make what the fans expect," Smartphones Technologies CEO Mike Merrill said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Merrill said that the apps will be available soon for the Google Android Market, BlackBerry App World and Palm App Catalog and that although only football and basketball are available now, other sports will be added in future updates.

Smartphones Technologies was able to create apps for such a wide array of universities based on pre-existing partnerships and licensing agreements it has with several schools for mobile content, dating back as far as 2005. Back then, before the mobile application market exploded, it was more about ringtones and wallpapers.

"We're getting blessed by the universities, making sure they're happy with the look and feel and getting everything the way they want it before we roll it out," Merrill said.

Other apps are geared toward individual university sports in a similar manner to Smartphones Technologies', but some are of the unlicensed variety. One such example of that comes from Ximii, a company that makes a "Hoops" app for schools and uses team logos but states that the app is not affiliated with or endorsed by the school.

CBS Sports also has team-centric apps, and it offers what most competitors don't: video and audio. But it comes with a steeper price tag at $4.99.

Other schools have decided to enter the app game solo.

The SEC has an officially licensed application, as well, and for $1.99 it also offers video highlights.

And, of course, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has his own app, dubbed as an "interactive media guide" and an extension of CoachCal.com. Priced at $2.99 -- though it's currently promotionally priced at $0.99 -- a third of the profits go to the Calipari Family Foundation for Children.

And with March Madness on the way, PocketBracket is sure to be a hit.

ESPN is providing an iPhone app for the ESPN Men's Tournament Challenge that is free and available now. Users will have the ability to sign up, join groups, check their brackets and follow games in real time. ScoreCenter, another app for ESPN, allows users to follow tournament action, plus scores from a host of other sports.

Obviously, it's nearly impossible to include every college-sports-geared application. But this is a decent sample size of what's out there in a market that's only continuing to grow.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.