How Vanderbilt students' work at Nashville Superspeedway could grow NASCAR fan base

Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Superspeedway are teaming up to offer students a behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR and motorsports.

Students of Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management will spend three weeks in the summer at various organizations combining classroom and consulting experience for career preparation. Their first stop will be at Nashville Superspeedway during the time when a tripleheader weekend takes place, which includes the Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on June. 25.

It is part of the school's Accelerator @ Summer Business Immersion program.

“We are delighted that our Accelerator students will join the team at Nashville Superspeedway to attract a new generation of fans to the excitement of motorsports,” said Cherrie Wilkerson, assistant dean for Young Professional Programs at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School. “Sports and entertainment are hallmarks for Nashville, and this partnership allows our students to work hard to bring results for both the Superspeedway and regional fans.”

During the week of June 4-9, students will research, measure and provide possible solutions for expanding and diversifying Nashville Superspeedway’s fan base.

The students will be tasked with developing strategies to attract audiences outside of NASCAR’s typical demographic and creating a greater connection between the Superspeedway and Nashville metro area.

So it will be an endeavor that ideally benefits both groups, the students as well as the Superspeedway.

"It's a partnership that allows them to take on a project that helps us grow to a more diverse and younger demographic," Nashville Superspeedway senior vice president and general manager Matt Greci said.

"Also for us to lean on folks that can think outside the box that can put fresh eyes on our perspective. They're going to get a behind-the-scenes look at our business and be able to dive into where we're excelling but also where our voids are. They're going to have full transparency from us as far as how our business operates and what they can do through a program and come back to us with great, impactful things that we can take away."

Students will conclude their project by attending Nashville Superspeedway’s tripleheader weekend, which begins on June 23 with the Rackley Roofing 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race followed by the June 24 Tennessee Lottery 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on June 25.

It won't be the first time Vanderbilt has connected with Nashville Superspeedway. Earlier this year Vanderbilt basketball star Jordan Wright did his internship at the Superspeedway working closely with the track's former president Erik Moses.

Vanderbilt connection to Deion Sanders getting Colorado football job

Deion Sanders, front, is welcomed to the podium by Colorado atheltic director Rick George, a former Vanderbilt associate AD, after introducing Sanders as the new football coach at Colorado Dec. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(Photo: The Associated Press)
Deion Sanders, front, is welcomed to the podium by Colorado atheltic director Rick George, a former Vanderbilt associate AD, after introducing Sanders as the new football coach at Colorado Dec. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (Photo: The Associated Press)

There was a Vanderbilt connection in Deion Sanders becoming Colorado's football coach.

Colorado athletic director Rick George, who hired Sanders away from Jackson State, spent eight years in the Vanderbilt athletic department.

George arrived at Vanderbilt with former football coach Gerry DiNardo, who had been the offensive coordinator at Colorado, in 1991. George served as associate athletic director for external operations in conjunction with overseeing the Commodores football program.

Later during his tenure at Vanderbilt, George expanded his role by overseeing all external departments, particularly in the area of managing budgets and developing marketing and promotional strategies for all sports.

In 1998 George left Vanderbilt to become president and CEO of a youth charity golf program and in 2013 returned to Colorado as athletics director.

USMNT earned decent local TV ratings in the World Cup

The U.S. men’s national soccer team earned solid, but far from great, local television ratings for two World Cup games last week.

A 1-0 loss to The Netherlands earned a 6.2 rating while a 1-0 win over Iran earned a 4.1 rating, according to WTVF-5 senior programming director Mark Binda.

It means 72,447 Nashville households watched The Netherlands games and 47,906 households watched the Iran game.

The Netherlands game was the eighth most-watched sports event in Nashville for the week and the Iran game was the 10th most-watched.

Nashville Sounds are Minor League Baseball's top organization for first time

The Nashville Sounds were named the Minor League Baseball Organization of the Year at the Baseball Winter Meetings opening night reception and awards program.

It marked the first time Nashville has won the award in its 45-year franchise history.

The Sounds won the 2022 International League West Division with a 91-58 record and were the only team in Minor League Baseball to surpass the 90-win mark. A total of 555,576 fans attended games at First Horizon Park on 73 home dates, an average of 7,611 fans per game.

First Horizon Park hosted the two largest crowds in ballpark history in 2022. The first came on July 16 for a game against the Memphis Redbirds when 12,409 fans packed the park eclipsing the previous record of 11,824 on March 24, 2018, when the Sounds played the Texas Rangers in an exhibition game. Less than one month later, 12,140 fans attended a game against Gwinnett.

Overall, First Horizon Park hosted 13 sellouts in 2022, an increase from 10 sellouts in 2021.

Sounds manager Rick Sweet named Mike Coolbaugh Award winner

Nashville Sounds manager Rick Sweet is now seventh on the all-time minor league managers victories list.
Nashville Sounds manager Rick Sweet is now seventh on the all-time minor league managers victories list.

Also, Sounds manager Rick Sweet was the recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award, which is presented to a Minor League Baseball figure who has shown an outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field.

The award honors Mike Coolbaugh, who died after being struck by a foul ball while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers in 2007.

Sweet, 70, completed his third season overall (second consecutive) as the Sounds manager in 2022. In three seasons with Nashville (2014, 2021-22), Sweet has compiled a 238-183 record.

Pogue, Kirtley and Schabert going into sports writers hall of fame

Greg Pogue
Greg Pogue

Former Nashville Banner sports writer Greg Pogue is in the 2023 Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame class along with former Austin Peay sports information director Brad Kirtley and Tennessee Tech’s Rob Schabert, who began their careers in newspaper.

Pogue started in 1980 at the Daily News in his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. After moving to the Nashville Banner, Pogue was the high school sports editor, Vanderbilt beat writer and columnist before becoming the newspaper's first Tennessee Titans beat writer. He also headed up early coverage of the Nashville Predators.

Pogue later spent 10 years as executive sports editor and two years as senior columnist for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro. He currently hosts "The Greg Pogue & Jon Burton Show" on WNSR 560-AM/95.9-FM and is the play-by-play announcer for Tennessee State’s football and men’s basketball teams.

Kirtley left a career at the Southeast Missourian, his hometown newspaper, in 1984 to start working at Austin Peay. He spent 32 years as the school's sports information director before retiring in 2016. Kirtley was inducted into the Austin Peay Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

Schabert, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, served many roles along with sports information director during his time at Tennessee Tech (1982-2016). He also was an official statistician, record keeper, lead writer, emcee, radio broadcaster, camera operator and photographer. He was inducted into Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

The trio will be inducted July 13 at Cumberland University as part of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association's annual awards ceremony.

MTSU women's basketball team receives top 25 vote

Middle Tennessee State's Savanah Wheeler was named the Conference USA player of the week after the Lady Raiders beat nationally-ranked Louisville.
Middle Tennessee State's Savanah Wheeler was named the Conference USA player of the week after the Lady Raiders beat nationally-ranked Louisville.

After knocking off then No. 18-ranked Louisville on Sunday the MTSU women’s basketball team received a vote for the Associated Press Top 25.

The 67-49 victory was the Lady Raiders’ first over a ranked opponent since Dec. 28, 2011, when they beat No. 6 Kentucky 70-58. It was the 11th win in program history over a ranked team (fourth under coach Rick Insell).

Louisville was in the Final Four last season.

Savannah Wheeler led MTSU with 23 points and was named the Conference USA player of the week the following day.

Brian Jordan will speak at Old Timers banquet

Former Major Leaguer Brian Jordan will speak at the 85th annual Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association banquet at Sonesta Nashville Airport on Jan. 15.
(Photo: Submitted)
Former Major Leaguer Brian Jordan will speak at the 85th annual Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association banquet at Sonesta Nashville Airport on Jan. 15. (Photo: Submitted)

Former MLB and NFL standout Brian Jordan will speak at the 85th annual Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association banquet Jan. 15 at Sonesta Nashville Airport.

Jordan's career included stints with the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1,456 games from 1992-2006  Jordan posted a .282 batting average and finished his career with a .988 fielding percentage playing at all three outfield positions and first base.

He also played three seasons as a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons.

Jordan is an Emmy award-winning sports analyst for Bally Sports South.

The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association will award college scholarships to several local high school baseball players at the banquet. Applications for 2023 scholarships will be accepted through Dec. 15 and are available at otbaseball.com.

The banquet doors open at 6 p.m. and the event begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 and available at otbaseball.com or from any Old Timers member. Call president Randy Bostic at 615-300-3391 or Skip Nipper at 615-483-0380 for more information.

Tennessee's Bryce Lewis participating in nationally-televised golf showcase

Bryce Leiws
Bryce Leiws

Former Hendersonville golfer Bryce Lewis, now a junior at Tennessee, was selected to participate in the third annual PXG College Golf Showcase in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Lewis, a former Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays champion, is the first Vols golfer to take part in the Dec. 14 showcase (6-8 p.m., Golf Channel) at Scottsdale National Golf Club.

He is one of six college golfers set to appear in the event, which features four top college male golfers in the country, and two of the best females, as well as two playing team captains, along with Pro Football Hall of Fame members Jerome Bettis and Brian Urlacher, in an exhibition shootout.Lewis, a 2022 All-SEC selection, was named the Tennessee Golf Association's Men's Player of the Year in November.

2023 Nashville marathon and half-marathon date set

The date for the 2023 St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon and Half-Marathon has been set for April 22.

The 25th anniversary races are part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series. It also includes race distances of 6.15 miles, 5K and 1-mile along with a KiDS ROCK race.

The starting line is on Eighth and Demonbreum with the finish at Nissan Stadium. The field has been as high as 25,000 in the past.

To register or for more information visit runrocknroll.com/Nashville.

TSU's Jim Marsalis going into Black College Football Hall of Fame

Former Tennessee State star football player Jim Marsalis, who just finished his rookie season as a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, checks out some newspaper pages of the past Chiefs season in the sports department of The Tennessean on a visit Jan. 28, 1970.
Former Tennessee State star football player Jim Marsalis, who just finished his rookie season as a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, checks out some newspaper pages of the past Chiefs season in the sports department of The Tennessean on a visit Jan. 28, 1970.

Former Tennessee State defensive back Jim Marsalis is part of the Black College Football of Fame 2023 class.

Marsalis was a Sporting News All-American in 1968 who set the interceptions record in the Blue-Gray game that year with three.

He was selected in the first round (23rd pick) of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and was the defensive rookie of the year when the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.

Others in the class: Leslie Frazier (Alcorn State), Henry “Killer” Lawrence (Florida A&M), Albert Lewis (Grambling State), Tyrone McGriff (Florida A&M), Elijah Pitts (Philander Smith), Johnnie Walton (Elizabeth City State), and coach Pete Richardson (Southern and Winston Salem State).

OVC basketball tournament returning to Evansville, Indiana, through 2024

The Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournament will return to the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana through 2024.
The Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournament will return to the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana through 2024.

The Ohio Valley Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments will remain at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, through 2024.

The OVC basketball tournaments have been at the Ford Center since 2018. In 2019 the OVC accepted a three-year agreement to continue playing the tournament there through 2023 with an option for 2024. The OVC board of presidents exercised that option Monday.

The 2024 tournament dates will be March 6-9. The 2023 dates are March 1-4.

Austin Peay's Chris Kappas is assistant coach of the year

Chris Kappas
Chris Kappas

Austin Peay assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Chris Kappas was named the 2022 American Football Coaches Association FCS assistant coach of the year.

"There is no one more deserving of this award than coach Kappas," said Austin Peay coach Scotty Walden. "His commitment to excellence, not only on the field but off the field, is what separates him from the pack. He did an amazing job leading our defense to be one of the best and most dominant in the country while representing our brand with a fearless, fast, and physical mindset."

Sports on Nashville TV

The five highest-rated sports events locally for the week ending Dec. 4:

1. NFL: Titans-Eagles, 18.2

2. SEC Championship: Georgia-LSU, 13.6

3. NFL: Chiefs-Bengals, 12.9

4. NFL: Cowboys-Colts, 10.5

5. Big 12 Championship: TCU-Kansas St., 8.7

Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 senior programming directorEach rating point is equal to 11,685 TV homes in the Nashville market.

If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: NASCAR fan base can grow in Vanderbilt, Nashville Superspeedway deal