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. Dedicated to fostering growth and innovation in this arena, 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. is the executive director for Samford University's Center for Sports Analytics and Margaret Gage Bush Distinguished Professor. He also serves as chair of the Entrepreneurship, Management, and Marketing Department and is the founding coordinator of the sports marketing & analytics program in Samford's Brock School of Business.White has crafted business relationships with some of the most prestigious sports organizations in the world, including Los Angeles Dodgers, MLS, Atlanta Braves, Celtic F.C., NBA, Dallas Cowboys, Leeds United FC, New Orleans Saints, Bayern Munich FC, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Wild, Learfield, NWSL, Atlanta Falcons, U.S. Swimming, Atlanta United F.C., Philadelphia Fliers, FC Dallas, Seattle Storm, SEC, ACC, Denver Broncos, NASCAR, LPGA, Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Harlequins Rugby, Indy Car, NFL Play 60, Peach Bowl, Senior Bowl, PGA, Atlanta Hawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Portland Trailblazers, MiLB, Israeli Football League, Atlanta Dream, Atlanta Talons (Hawk's NBA 2K team), and NHRA On the corporate sponsorship side, White has worked with Coca-Cola, Nike, Adidas, TransAmerica, Phillips 66, Chick-fil-A, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ibotta, Toyota, CBS Sports, and Manchester United’s sponsor AON. White is a highly sought resource for media seeking insights into sports business. His comments have appeared in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, Forbes, L.A. Times, Athletic, USA Today, ESPN Radio, Al Jazeera, Sports Business Daily, Bond Buyer, International Business Times, NPR, Bleacher Report, and the Capital Gazette. He served as a judge for the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards gala, the "Oscars of Sports Technology," in London. White has served on numerous boards including Aspire Football Academies, Daniel Summit, Advance Baseball International, Sport Forward, Coach Safely, Alabama Sports Foundation, and Youth Sports of the Americas. He has authored more than 60 journal articles and conference proceedings during his career. White spent 12 years as a college soccer coach and was named Coach of the Year by Adidas and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NAIA south region). Two years earlier he led Union University men’s college soccer team to an NCCAA national championship. Since leaving college coaching, White has coached elite youth soccer teams in Tennessee and Alabama. His teams have advanced to the state championship game 13 times in 15 years and have won 9 state championships. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his youngest son's soccer team, traveling to Europe with his family to attend Leeds United F.C. matches, reading about Ancient Near East culture and history, and teaching Biblical theology classes at his church. He and his wife, Laura, have seven children and three grandchildren.
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 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.
Sam Edgemon is a consultant at the SAS Institute, and is responsible for creating several SAS initiatives including the “Star System” approach for Collegiate Athletic Department analytics relative to Ticket Sales and Fund Raising, and the initiative defining the Academic Pathways for Student Athletes. As a SAS Consultant, Sam works for athletic departments, booster clubs, scholarship and university advancement/development organizations as well as professional sports organizations and franchises (NFL, MLB and NHL). Sam often uses sports data to evangelize the power of visualizations and analytics through demonstrations that focus on the “process of analytics” and the skills that are necessary to become not just a great sports analyst, but a great analyst relative to any discipline.
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 Communication, Communication and Sport, Journal of Sports Media, and other media journals. Prior to academia, Emmons worked in public relations, including media relations for motorsport and event management.
Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D.
Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D. is the Research Director of the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) and the Founding President of the American Baseball Biomechanics Society. He earned his engineering degrees from MIT, Washington University and UAB. Dr. Fleisig has published 200 scientific articles, delivered 350 presentations throughout the world and has been interviewed for thousands of stories by the media. His research includes sports biomechanics, clinical outcomes of surgery, and sports epidemiology. This research has improved our society’s understanding of the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries for recreational and competitive athletes of all levels, from youth through professional. Dr. Fleisig has published research on a wide range of individual and team sports, including baseball. In fact, he was ranked by Expertscape as the top expert in the world on baseball science and medicine. He has also contributed to improved safety rules and guidelines as an advisor to Major League Baseball, Little League Baseball, USA Baseball, and PitchSmart.org.
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, Ala., received his M.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and received his B.S. 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 master's 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.
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 Kirkpatrick is an assistant professor of sports business in the Brock School of Business at Samford University. Most recently, Kirkpatrick served for two years in the Nelson Rusche College of Business at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) in Texas. While at SFA, Kirkpatrick served as a clinical instructor of management and marketing, and also led their sports business program housed on SFA’s campus in The Woodlands, Texas (Houston area). Prior to working at SFA, Kirkpatrick led the sport administration program in Samford’s School of Health Professions for five years, and he also worked as an assistant professor of sports administration at Belhaven University’s School of Business. Kirkpatrick started his professional career working in college athletics as a director of basketball operations, head men's basketball coach, academics and eligibility worker, and athletic administrator within athletic departments at Colorado State University, Covenant College, and The University of Georgia. He played basketball at Covenant College. Kirkpatrick received a Bachelor of Arts in history and secondary education from Covenant College, and a master's and Ph.D. concentrated in sport management and policy from the University of Georgia. He is married to Emily Hart Kirkpatrick, a 2011 Samford alumna. They have three children: Joshua, Caleb and Molly.
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.
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.
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.
Summer 2023 Interns
Joe Leonard, a rising third-year at the University of Virginia, will serve as an intern in the Center for Sports Analytics during the summer of 2023. He is studying computer science with a minor in data science and also plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field of data analytics. His previous experience in sports research involves working at the UVA Sports Analytics & Statistics Laboratory where he helped create a database of the last 10 seasons of every sport for the ACC, evaluated whether NFL punt returners should fair catch or return the punt in different situations, and created algorithms to predict college basketball games. He also conducts many personal projects he puts on his Twitter. Joe hopes to one day work in an analytics department on an NFL team or work with football data at a third-party company.