Posted by Philip Poole on 2011-03-09

A familiar name to long-time Samford University sports fans and a familiar family name in collegiate athletics has been named director of athletics at Samford.

Martin Newton, who played basketball at Samford from 1979-83, will begin his duties later this spring. He currently is director of men’s basketball operations at the University of Kentucky and is committed to that program through the NCAA tournament. He replaces Bob Roller, who resigned last fall after 11 years leading Samford’s athletics program.

Newton, whose full name is Charles Martin Newton Jr., was introduced March 9 at a news conference on the Samford campus. His selection followed a national search led by Harry B. Brock III, Samford’s vice president for business and financial affairs.

“Martin has an important combination of character and skill sets that convinced us that he is an ideal choice to lead our athletics program,” Brock said. “His experience on university campuses, his broad national network built from his years in collegiate sports and the fact that he is a Samford graduate will help him continue moving our program forward.”

Brock co-chaired a 12-member search advisory committee with Emily Hynds, an associate professor in Samford’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our committee was particularly impressed with Martin’s energy and his understanding of the important balance between academics and athletics,” Hynds added. “We appreciate that he intends to lead athletics toward a high level of competitiveness for all of our teams in tandem with leading them in continued support of the university’s mission.”

Newton graduated from Samford in 1983 with a business degree. He was a four-year letter winner in men’s basketball and was all-conference honorable mention in 1980. Following graduation he worked in sports marketing for Converse and Nike before taking the UK job in 2009. At Kentucky he has managed an $11 million budget, fundraising, compliance, scheduling, marketing and academic support for the men’s basketball program.

“I'd like to thank Dr. Westmoreland, the board of trustees and Buck Brock for this incredible opportunity to return to my alma mater as its athletics director,” Newton said. “Samford has always had a special place in my heart and helped shape me both personally and professionally. I share Dr. Westmoreland's vision for this university and our athletics department, and I look forward to serving our student-athletes, coaches, faculty and staff as we continue to move Samford athletics to the next level.”

Newton’s father, C.M., was the basketball coach at the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University and athletics director at the University of Kentucky.

Newton grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and graduated from what is now Tuscaloosa Central High School. His wife, Cindy, is the daughter of Evelyn and the late James Smith of Tuscaloosa. Her parents attended Samford in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Samford offers nine women’s and eight men’s varsity NCAA sports. The university has consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally in the NCAA’s academic progress ratings. Samford competes in the prestigious Southern Conference, which it joined prior to the 2008-09 season after five years in the Ohio Valley Conference. In the last five years, several new facilities have been constructed for tennis, football, basketball, volleyball and athletics administration. A new soccer/track and field complex is scheduled to open in April in time for Samford to host the SoCon track and field championships.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.