The Samford University Center for Sports Analytics promotes the ethically-centered, rational inquiry into issues at the burgeoning intersection of big data, analytics, and sports. The center seeks to be an international thought leader in the emerging field of sports analytics by providing a forum for industry professionals and students to learn about the increasing role of analytics in the global sports industry. The center is dedicated to fostering growth and innovation in this arena, and the center seeks to enrich opportunities for learning about the sports industry. The center's mission encompasses all areas where analytics impacts sports including fan engagement, sponsorship, player tracking, sports medicine, sports media and operations.

Our Executive Director

Darin W. White, Ph.D.

Darin W. White, Ph.D. in Marketing (University of Alabama) is Executive Director of the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics and Founding Director of the Sports Marketing program in the Brock School of Business. He serves as Chair of the American Marketing Association’s Sport & Sponsorship-Linked Marketing SIG, the leading international scholarly body charged with advancing the field of sports marketing. Darin also serves as Chair of the Entrepreneurship, Management & Marketing Department at Samford University.

Darin has significant experience developing data driven marketing insights for many of the top sports properties in the world including Bayern Munich, Nike, SEC, NBA and the Miami Dolphins. His primary research interest centers on the use of big data in the development of new sponsorship-linked marketing effectiveness metrics. He has assisted Adidas, AON, Honda and Blue Cross Blue Shield on their sponsorship marketing strategy.

Prior to coming Samford University in 2007, Darin was president of the Strategic Research Center, Inc., a marketing research firm in Tennessee. He has taught marketing research for over twenty years at two different universities. He has also published 27 academic manuscripts in leading business journals including Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Journal of Services Marketing, Journal of Strategic Marketing, Journal of Global Marketing and Sports, Business & Management: An International Journal

Darin is a highly sought resource for media seeking insights into sports business. His comments have appeared in numerous media outlets including Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, ESPN Radio, Mashable, Al Jazeera, Sports Business Daily, International Business Times, NPR, Bleacher Report, and the Capital Gazette.

Darin serves on the board of directors for the Alabama Sports Foundation, Sport Forward, Daniel Summit, and Youth Sports of the Americas. He also serves on the editorial review board for two refereed sports business journals.

Our Fellows

Will Cavanaugh

Will graduated from Samford University's Brock School of Business with a B.S. in Economics and a Sports Marketing Concentration in 2015. He works for Nielsen Sports in New York focusing on MLB team clients and is a junior fellow of the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics. His day-to-day duties involve data analytics and market research for various MLB teams. Will is currently pursuing his Master’s of Predictive Analytics at Northwestern University.

C. Clifton Eason, Ph.D.

Clif is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and the Director of the Professional Sales program at the Brock School of Business at Samford University. With broad interests within the world of sports, Clif has conducted dozens of research projects that range from youth leagues to some of the biggest names in sports. Using them as learning opportunities for his students, he has coordinated research for Adidas, Bayern Munich, and the Southern Conference – to name a few. Much of Clif’s sports-related research has focused on fan experience, and he has published and made presentations on topics including collegiate apparel licensing, sports sponsorship, sports retailing, and fan engagement.

Betsy Emmons, Ph.D.

Betsy Emmons, Ph.D., APR is an assistant professor in the Journalism & Mass Communication department at Samford University. She specializes in strategic communication, particularly public relations. Her research examines social media as it intersects sports and stakeholder relationships. Analytics interests include content analysis and mixed method contextual research. She has been published in the International Journal of Sport CommunicationCommunication and SportJournal of Sports Media, and other media journals. Prior to academia, Emmons worked in public relations, including media relations for motorsport and event management.

David Hardin, M.D.

David is a sports medicine and internal medicine physician with the Precision Sports Medicine and Orthopedics group at Brookwood Baptist Health System. He is one of the founding physicians of this group, covering several Birmingham-area high schools, community athletics, and the Birmingham Iron professional football team. He has extensive experience combining software development, data analytics, and sports medicine expertise. Through previous partnerships with Major League Soccer, he consulted on league-wide database initiatives, improving player safety and performance research. He has presented on topics such as data analytics in ACL injury return to play, statistical methods of injury prediction in Major League Soccer, and text mining methods for prediction of premature infant death. In addition to research experience, he has private analytics consulting experience with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Strategywise, Inc. He completed his internal medicine residency at Baptist Health System in Birmingham, AL, received his M.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and received his BS from the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce.  

Mike Hardin, Ph.D.

Dr. Mike Hardin, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Quantitative Analysis and Biostatistics at Samford University, is one of only four Fellows of the American Statistical Association in the state of Alabama, an honor reserved for less than 1% of the entire ASA international membership. He is the former Dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at the University of Alabama. He earned his doctorate in applied statistics and three separate masters degrees in mathematics, research design/statistics, and divinity. He often serves as a consultant to healthcare organizations in data analysis, sampling and program integrity. He is also a prolific writer and guest speaker in the areas of database design and decision support systems.

Doug Hicks

With more than 25 years of communications, branding and marketing experience, Doug Hicks has joined Sinclair Broadcast Group as a marketing consultant. In his role, Hicks will apply his experience to understand and grow strategic marketing platforms through successful use of Sinclair media platforms. He joins SBG after arriving in Birmingham to launch Birmingham Legion FC, a United Soccer League expansion club, in advance of the 2019 season. In this role, Hicks was responsible for developing and executing strategic all business plans and setting in motion comprehensive communications, digital media and marketing initiatives building club brand.

Hicks arrived in the Magic City following four seasons with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club and  13 in executive capacities at D.C. United. Acknowledging the quality relationships built with local and national soccer media, Major League Soccer honored Hicks’ work four consecutive years (2004-2007) with the Team Public Relations Award. United also earned two League community relations awards under his supervision while the Fire were distinguished for the club’s digital media offerings in 2017.

Hicks has also served as a communications consultant for the U.S. Soccer Federation, an adjunct professor in the Georgetown University Sports Industry Management program, teaching leadership in management and public relations courses during his four-year tenure, as well as three seasons with the Washington Capitals (NHL) and four with the Washington Bullets (NBA).

Hicks attended James Madison University before finishing his studies at George Mason University. He and his wife Carrie reside in Homewood with their sons Jozy and Skyler.

Nathan Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.

Nathan currently serves as the Sports Business Program Administrator in The Woodlands, TX for the Nelson Rusche College of Business at Stephen F. Austin State University. He previously served at Samford University for five years as the program coordinator for the Sports Administration Program. His professional background in the sports industry has been in college athletics as a Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Athletic Administrator, and Director of Basketball Operations. His research interests revolve around the business sides of collegiate athletics, as well as connected areas of leadership, management, and marketing in business. While at Samford, he led various student-mentored research projects including a client-based sponsorship awareness research project for Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.

He has published peer-reviewed, scholarly research previously on the business and financial backgrounds of collegiate athletic directors, sport business and marketing collaborations in higher education, as well as NCAA academic eligibility measures such as the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Academic Redshirt Policy. His current research projects examine licensing sponsorships in collegiate sports, consumer preference in collegiate athletic apparel sales, alcohol-related sponsorships and sales in “Power 5” Conference athletics, and Christian leadership training within business education. He was honored to be part of the first ever Fellows group for the Center for Sports Analytics at Samford University and looks forward to more collaboration with Samford in the future.

Matt Mazzei, Ph.D.

Matt is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management in the Brock School of Business at Samford University. He earned a Ph.D. in Management from Auburn University, with a concentration in Organizational Studies, Strategy, and Change. He also received a M.S. in Management Information Systems, an MBA, and an undergraduate degree in finance. Prior to academia, he held various management and leadership positions in finance, accounting, and information technology.

Matt received the 2017 Brock School of Business Outstanding Scholarship Award for his leading-edge research related to the use of big data in driving corporate strategy. He has been invited to speak at universities in Helsinki, Finland, regarding data analytics and also helped organize a symposium on longitudinal data analysis at a prestigious international management conference. His research interests focus on firm-level entrepreneurship and the influence of big data analytics on corporate decision making. Matt’s work has been presented at various national and international conferences and published in prestigious journals such as Group and Organization Management, Management Decision, and Business Horizons.

Matt is actively involved with and passionate about teaching life lessons through youth sports, serving as a volunteer coach in baseball, basketball, and flag football. He also serves on the advisory board for the Alabama Amateur Hockey Association, a non-profit entity that promotes and administers competitive youth hockey in the Birmingham market.

Joseph Pederson, Ph.D.

Joseph Pederson is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Sport Administration at Samford University. He earned his Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University, with a concentration in Sport Management. He specializes in sport marketing and communication, particularly new media. His primary research interest aims at understanding new media in sport and its impacts on sport consumer behavior. He has been published in the International Journal of Sport Communication, Journal of Further and Higher Education, and Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education. As an instructor, he serves as a mentor on numerous student-led research projects as part of the Department of Kinesiology’s undergraduate research sequence.

Shane Sanders, Ph.D.

Dr. Shane Sanders is an Associate Professor of Sports Economics & Analytics at Syracuse University. He has published 36 peer-reviewed journal articles, primarily in the areas of sports economics and sports analytics. Dr. Sanders has several hundred hours of experience in basketball player evaluation consulting, most notably for a EuroLeague basketball team and for a leading NCAA Men’s Basketball player rating website on the topic. He also works with a leading NCAA (Men’s and Women’s) Cross Country program on projects related to recruitment and performance prediction.

Dr. Sanders has written player evaluation articles in the sports of basketball and baseball for such venues as Fox Sports, Nylon Calculus, Hoops Habit, and The Hardball Times. His research on revenue sharing was cited in an amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court in a landmark sports anti-trust case (American Needle, Inc. v NFL 2009). Dr. Sanders has extensive experience in statistical programming and data analysis and has analyzed many different types of sports data.  He also takes care to explain his statistical methodology and results in a straightforward manner. Dr. Sanders is honored to support the mission of the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics as a Fellow. 

Chuck Stokes, Ph.D.

Chuck is associate professor of sociology at Samford University. Much of his scholarship focuses on how religious belief and behavior impacts family and educational outcomes. His work has been published in several outlets including the Journal of Marriage and Family, the Journal of Family Issues, the Future of Children, and Social Science Research. After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, Stokes served as a fellow of the Templeton Center for Thrift and Generosity before returning to his alma mater, Samford University.

Chuck’s love for sports was nurtured by playing youth sports and watching Clemson football while growing up in South Carolina. In launching the College Football Uniform Study (CFUS), he combined his enjoyment of sports with a passion for applied social science. The first two publications from the CFUS were covered by local and national sports media and garnered interest from sports apparel manufacturers. Moving forward with the Center for Sports Analytics, Stokes plans to continue research on how motivation, team bonding, and organizational culture affect athletic performance.

Carter Verchot

Carter Verchot was named the first ever Student Fellow for the Center for Sports Analytics on December 5, 2019 and will hold that role until June 2020. He is a senior finance major with a concentration in sports marketing at Samford University and on track to graduate in May 2020. He is very passionate about everything sports and data analytics. He played sports throughout his childhood and through high school and hopes to turn his passion for sports into a career. He hopes to find a job with a sports property or data analytics company in order to combine his two passions, finance and sports. His sports marketing passion developed during his internship with the Samford Center for Sports Analytics and was capped off by participating in the Sports Marketing Program capstone course, where he served as the analytics lead on a project for Coca-Cola sports marketing. He and his classmates presented a data-driven strategic plan for how Coca-Cola could leverage their football and soccer assets to recruit Generation Z to be the next generation of Coca-Cola drinkers.

Tyler Williams, Ph.D., CSCS

Tyler is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Coordinator of the SamFit Community Fitness Testing Program at Samford University. SamFit, a program through the School of Health Professions, offers physical fitness and performance testing to community members across the greater Birmingham area. He earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science and Ph.D. in Human Performance from the University of Alabama. He has published in multiple peer-reviewed journals in the field of exercise science and frequently presents at state, regional and national conferences. His research focuses on resistance training strategies to enhance muscular fitness, ergogenic aids on exercise and athletic performance, and various methods of athlete monitoring. Additionally, he has the privilege of serving as a research mentor for numerous undergraduate research projects each year and he strives to teach students the value of the research process. Tyler is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He has been coaching recreational and competitive strength athletes since 2013. While he loves working with competitive athletes, he is equally passionate about educating others on the benefits of resistance training.

Tom Woolley, Ph.D.

Dr. Tom Woolley, Senior Associate Provost and Professor of Quantitative Analysis, holds a Ph.D. in Statistics and Research Design from Florida State University. He is the former Vice Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Biomathematics and Head of Public Health Biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center. Having published or presented before scientific conferences nearly 200 works, his current research interests include indeterminacy in business, experimental design, applied Bayesian analysis, outlier methodology, and the theology of chance. 

Rustin T. Yerkes, Ph.D.

Rustin T. (Rusty) Yerkes is Assistant Professor of Finance at the Brock School of Business, Samford University, in Birmingham, AL where he teaches Risk Management & Insurance, Investments, and Financial Statement Analysis courses in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Masters of Accounting (MAcc.), and undergraduate finance programs.  His research interests are in venture capital, municipal finance and mortgage markets and he has published articles in the The Financial Review, Journal of Investing, Journal of Private Equity, Journal of Trading and The Journal of Biblical Integration in Business

Rusty loves all things soccer and has played, coached, officiated and served as a club-team manager.  Rusty has been recognized by Samford with faculty awards for Outstanding Scholarship and Distinguished Service.  He received a PhD in Finance from the University of Alabama, MBA in Finance from Auburn University Montgomery and BS in Economics and BS in Operations Research from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Prior to entering graduate school, he served on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Air Force working as a logistics analyst and Assistant Professor of Economics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Following active duty he worked as a portfolio manager for AmSouth (now Regions) Asset Management.  Rusty holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA, 2003), Certified Financial Planner (CFP, 2005), Financial Risk Manager (FRM, 2015) and Certified Treasury Professional (CTP, 2013) designations.  Rusty grew up in a great sports town, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and enjoys running, road and mountain cycling, fiction and non-fiction reading and volunteering with Junior Achievement of Alabama.

Yilun Zhou, Ph.D. Candidate

Yilun holds an M.S. in Statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sport Management at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yilun has published articles in Journal of Sport Management, Sport Management Review, Journal of Sports Economics, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Leisure Sciences, Leisure Studies and other outlets. She is currently working as a data scientist at Anheuser-Busch InBev Bud Analytics Lab and is a junior fellow of the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics. She has also worked for Nike, Ogilvy, and Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Yilun has extensive experience in quantitative modeling of marketing-related questions, and is familiar with various statistical software, languages, packages, and big data computation systems.

Our Interns

Chandler Hubbard

Chandler is a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he is majoring in Mathematics on the Mathematics Fast Track Program, with minors in Economics and Computer Science. In addition to his studies and this internship, he currently works with the Information Technology Department at UAB. Because of his strong interest in both sports data and math, Chandler has been drawn to sports analytics since his childhood. He attributes that to his grandfather's love of sports. Chandler is currently seeking internships for the summer of 2020. After graduation Chandler hopes to work with either an MLB or NFL team to help with in-game strategy and personnel decision making.

Zachary Stice

Zachary will be finishing his junior year at Grinnell College (IA) this spring. He is majoring in Economics, concentrating in Statistics, and pursuing analytical careers in the sports industry. Zachary is on the varsity basketball team at Grinnell College. His own athletic experience helped spark his passion and familiarize himself with sports analytics. He has previously interned at Oregon Research Institute and the US Department of Transportation and will be working at Eastbay this summer. Zachary is interested in leveraging data and analytical techniques for business and performance decisions, primarily in collegiate and professional basketball.