Alumna continues Pacific's growing legacy in the National Football League
University of the Pacific alumna Sarah Bailey '15 always wanted to work in sports. But she never thought a chance meeting on the Stockton Campus would lead to a career in the NFL and being named Woman of the Year by the Sports Analytics Club Program.
Bailey, who serves as manager of football analytics and data for the Los Angeles Rams, received the award in the category of professional sports data scientist. She serves as an advisor to the Sports Analytics Club Program, a non-profit that works with students across the United States to promote STEM education through sports.
"I am passionate about numbers and I'm proud to work with this group to promote STEM relevant professional careers in sports for young women and men," said Bailey.
Bailey's journey to the NFL began when she met Nicoletta Ruhl, granddaughter of Pacific alumnus Alex Spanos '48 and director of digital media for the Chargers, at a campus event. Their connection landed Bailey an internship with the then San Diego Chargers.
"Nicoletta gave me my first opportunity to work in professional sports and I was only introduced to her because of her connection to Pacific," said Bailey. "The university offers such an intimate and personalized learning environment, but also has all of the opportunities a major university offers."
Bailey came to Pacific as a transfer student and was a scholar athlete on the cross country team. She received her degree in mathematics.
"I was interested in coming to Pacific because I wanted to run in a more competitive program and also the university had such a strong reputation for its academic programs," she explained. "I knew this was the place for me to follow my dream of having a career in sports."
Josh Jones, head coach of Pacific's cross country and track teams, remembers Bailey for her work ethic and focus.
"Sarah is a very smart and determined person, who always tried to optimize her performance," said Jones. "She was always someone who knew what she wanted to do and she would go after it. Her success in the NFL does not surprise me one bit and she is a great success story for our program."
Bailey’s role with the Rams came as analytics ushered in a "new era" of football based heavily on using data for everything from recruiting players to planning strategy.
"I'm in the football data and analytics department and we work with the coaches, trainers, scouts and the general manager," explained Bailey. "As a statistician, I take data on players and teams to analyze, then I try to find information that can be helpful to each department."
While football is often considered a game of brute strength, data analysis plays a large role in minute-by-minute decision making on the field.
"When game-planning for an opponent, we will analyze data that can highlight some of that team's tendencies and things you may not see from watching film," said Bailey. "For example, if the team is passing to a certain player 80% of the time when in second down and yardage situations, data will quickly pick up that tendency."
As an operations executive, Bailey is continuing the growing legacy of Pacific alums in the National Football League.
In addition to sending numerous players to the league, Pacific has produced four current or former NFL head coaches including Pete Carroll '73, Bruce Coslet '68, Hue Jackson '86 and Tom Flores '58, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
Pacific is one of just six universities to have had two alumni go on to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, with Carroll and Flores winning championships.
"It is amazing to be mentioned with individuals who have made such lasting impacts at every level of this league," said Bailey. "It's a tribute to the environment that Pacific has created, which produces such great leaders."