By Kaitlin Candelaria
God is the top priority in Darin White’s life, but sports may be a close second.
The Vestavia Hills High School alumnus and Samford University professor is using his passion for Christ and his love of sports to create a thriving new program at Samford. White serves as the driving force behind the university’s sports marketing program.
The program, which is in its fourth year, is the only accredited one of its type in an AACSB accredited business school in the Southeast. Only 10 students are accepted each year, and they are given the opportunity to work alongside organizations such as the NBA to gain real-life sports marketing experience.
“Throughout their junior and senior year, they’re taking six different courses that prepare them to work in the sports industry when they graduate,” White said. “Each of those courses has real life components and our program is very experiential. We work with dozens of sports organizations around the globe, from Harlequins Rugby Union in London to Nike in Oregon. It culminates with a final senior capstone project where we develop and present a strategic plan for a major sports property.”
This year’s senior project involved an organization called The Daniel Summit. The Daniel Summit, which originally started out as a summer conference in San Diego, dedicated to equipping Christian sports industry executives to use their platform to positively influence our culture for God, was looking to expand their organization into a year-round endeavor and White had just the group of budding sports marketing professionals to help.
“We were asked to develop a five-year strategic plan to grow the Daniel Summit,” White said. “It’s named the Daniel Summit because Daniel was taken from his home and was put in Babylon and given a position of tremendous influence. Babylon was the main cultural epicenter of that time – much like sports in our culture. Daniel did not sway from his commitment to God even though he was under significant pressure to conform to the society of that day. Instead, he boldly used the influence God had given him to significantly effect the culture.”
White said that sports executives have the same opportunity to positively impact our culture if they, like Daniel, maintain a faithful devotion to God throughout their careers. He said the request for a strategic plan seemed like a perfect fit for his students.
“It’s really neat that we’re getting to partner with this organization with the same mission that we have,” White said. “We’re doing it at a college level and they’re doing it at an executive level. Here at Samford, we’re all about producing outstanding students with a fantastic education and being able to give…(them) opportunities to go out in the world and have great success but hopefully also maintaining your faithfulness in God.”
The students recently were given the chance to travel to Miami to present their plan to executives behind The Daniel Summit. While in Miami, they also got to tour the new Miami Dolphins stadium and shadow Tampa Bay Buccaneers executives. White said these sorts of experiences are essential to his students’ success after college.
“If I’m going to be able to have them hired when they graduate, the most important part of the whole entire process is their ability to network and build relationships within the sports industry, and that’s not going to happen by having them sit in the classroom at Samford day in and day out,” White said. So far, his students have landed in jobs with professional sports teams, NASCAR, PGA and various sports marketing firms around the country.
White’s love for God and sports translates into other areas of his life, as well. When he isn’t busy teaching, he’s a member of the board of directors for the Alabama Sports Foundation and co-hosts a radio program on 93.7, a Birmingham-based Christian radio station, in which he discusses the relationship between sports and God.
“Roxanne and Chris are the main morning DJs and I became really good friends with Chris last spring,” White said. “We started the program back in September and it’s about the marriage of sports and faith and how we can take our passion for sports in this community, and how can we use that (to) advance the kingdom and do positive things for Christ.”
To learn more about Samford’s Sports Marketing program visit www.BusinessSideofSports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sports_Biz_Prof.