In April 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female official in NFL history. In January 2016, Kathryn Smith was hired by the Buffalo Bills as the first female full-time coach. This past July, following in the footsteps of these trailblazers, Brittany Haby ’15 became a Denise DeBartolo York Fellow for the San Francisco 49ers. Haby serves as a Fellow in the football administration and analytics department in a 12-month, entry-level position, designated for a talented and driven woman interested in an NFL career.
After learning of the opportunity through Jacob Tingle, professor of business administration and chair of the sport management minor, Haby applied for the fellowship. Since 2011, the position existed within the 49ers’ marketing department. That changed when Hannah Gordon, the 49ers’ vice president of legal and government affairs, received a visit from Brian Hampton, the team’s director of football administration. A request was made that the department utilize the fellowship, and Haby, an economics major from Helotes, Texas, was chosen as the recipient.
“Throughout the season, we’ve been doing write-ups for the coaches and the scouts, who predict whether college or pro players would be a good fit for our organization,” Haby says. “We build models to make those predictions.”
Since beginning her fellowship, Haby has thrived on the fast-paced environment and the ability to work efficiently as a team player, something she learned through group work while at Trinity. Haby says that her sport management classes in particular taught her how to contribute as both a leader and a follower.
On February 5, just two days before Super Bowl 50, Haby attended the inaugural NFL Women’s Summit in San Francisco. The conference brought together some of the greatest names in sport, like tennis stars Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, as well as leaders in business and politics, such as former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The summit’s purpose was to celebrate the impact sports can have on women’s lives and their ability to lead, not just in athletics, but in all facets of life. Haby said she “felt blessed” to be included and was able to meet role models such as softball player and sportscaster Jessica Mendoza.
“Jessica and I were able to connect, and we had a great conversation about how she deals with being a woman in a male-dominated field,” Haby says. “It was also nice to see just how much the NFL is reaching out and trying to include women in the sport itself.”
A softball player during her years at Trinity, Haby has experienced firsthand the benefits of sports. She says that the commitment softball demanded taught her to embrace both good and bad days, while always keeping the end goal in mind. Working toward her goal, no matter what the obstacle, is something she has kept in mind while finding her footing with the 49ers.
Additionally, Haby says she was glad she attended the NFL Women’s Summit because Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, announced that the NFL would adopt a “Rooney Rule” for women. The Rooney Rule requires the league’s teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operations jobs. This extension of the rule would demand that women be considered as candidates for executive NFL positions.
“The message that the summit sent is that the NFL is keeping the conversation going about women within the NFL,” Haby says. “It is encouraging that it was not just women supporting women at the conference, but men supporting women as well.” As the draft approaches, Haby and the 49ers’ analytics department continues to provide scouts with the most accurate and up-to-date information on recruits.
Today, as Haby analyzes the historical data of players, she recalls her senior project with math professor E. Cabral Balreira about NBA predictions and attempting to determine whether or not might have a home court advantage. By manipulating the probabilities so that a home team would have a greater chance of winning, Haby and Balreira tested their bias theory. Eventually proved right, Haby credits projects like that one with building the foundation that has allowed her to excel with the 49ers. Like many other women in sports, Haby doesn’t consider herself a pioneer, just a person working in a sport that she loves.