The Sports Credential Essentials—May 2022

The month of May brings some exciting events for the Nashville sports world.

Nashville SC opened GEODIS Park on Sunday, May 1 and will play four more home games this month, including rival Atlanta United FC twice.

May also means NHL postseason, and the Nashville Predators punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the last week of April. The Preds have made the playoffs each of the last eight seasons and will be taking on the extremely tough Colorado Avalanche starting on May 3. They host the Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on May 7 and 9 for games three and four.

The Titans will be hosting its first ever Titans Foundation Dinner on May 18 hosted by general manger Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel. Fans can purchase tickets for the event and all proceeds will go to the Titans Foundation.

For more events and games, head to The Sports Credential calendar.

MAY 3
Predators vs. Colorado in Game One of the NHL Playoffs First Round
Denver, Colorado

MAY 7
Predators vs. Colorado in Game Three of the NHL Playoffs First Round at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 8
Nashville SC vs. Real Salt Lake at GEODIS Park
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 9
Predators vs Colorado in Game Four of the NHL Playoffs First Round at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 11
Nashville SC vs. Atlanta United FC in U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 at GEODIS Park
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 18
Nashville SC vs. Montreal FC at GEODIS Park
Nashville, Tennessee

Titans Foundation Dinner at Nissan Stadium
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 19
Nashville Metro Sports Authority Board Meeting at First Horizon Park
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 19-21
Vanderbilt Baseball’s Final Series vs. LSU at Hawkins Field
Nashville, Tennessee

MAY 21
Nashville SC vs. Atlanta United FC at GEODIS Park
Nashville, Tennessee

Walker Zimmerman & Hany Mukhtar Extended Through 2022, Named Designated Players

Pictured (L-R): Walker Zimmerman, club majority owner John Ingram, and Hany Mukhtar. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Nashville SC majority owner John Ingram announced on Friday (April 29) that Hany Mukhtar and Walker Zimmerman‘s contracts have been extended through 2025 and that both have been named Designated Players.

“One of the things that was important to me was that I wanted to build something that was sustainable, not just a flash in the pan,” Ingram shared in a press conference. “I don’t know how you build something that’s sustainable and carries on if you’re not keeping your best players.”

The two athletes have been key members of the club’s success in its first two seasons in MLS. Zimmerman was named back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year and Mukhtar was on the shortlist for MLS MVP in 2021. Behind both players and head coach Gary Smith, Nashville SC has made it to the conference semifinals in back-to-back seasons, the first club in MLS history to do so in its first two seasons.

Additionally, the pairing turned Nashville into the seventh team in league history to go a full season unbeaten at home.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this moment. I’m so happy to be here in Nashville,” Mukhtar noted. “I didn’t know much about [Nashville], and from the first day, I just can’t thank everyone in the organization enough. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and showed me the city and that’s really something special. It’s really feeling like my second home and there wasn’t a doubt in me that I wanted to stay long term.”

Mukhtar made 31 appearances, playing 2,505 minutes in 2021. He scored 16 goals and assisted 12 goals, leading the league in goals scored and assists combined. His offense elevated the team from a mostly defensively focused team which helped lead them to the MLS Playoffs.

Walker Zimmerman and Hany Mukhtar against the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC.

Zimmerman has been the backbone of Nashville SC since day one. His defense and leadership earned him a spot on the USMNT roster where he helped the team qualify for the 2022 World Cup. He is one of very few defenders in the MLS to be named a Designated Player.

“It’s incredibly humbling first of all. Just that they would commit to me in that way,” Zimmerman explained. “When you look at the league and the amount of attacking talent that is coming in year after year, you have to have guys who can stop them. Centerbacks are an extremely important position. I’m proud to have this deal as a centerback and I don’t take that lightly.”

These deals were done just days before the opening of the club’s newest permanent home GEODIS Park, giving is a testament to the club’s dedication to star talent and their desire to continue getting better and attracting players.

Both Zimmerman and Mukhtar have laid roots in Nashville. Zimmerman and his wife Sally welcomed their baby boy Tucker into the world last year, while Mukhtar is engaged to someone he met in Nashville. Mukhtar is also set to open a soccer academy for the youth players of Nashville, showing his dedication for his adoptive city.

“That’s what was in my decision to sign a new deal: I want to be here,” Mukhtar summed. “It’s not because they’re the only club that wants me. I want to be here, I want to be successful here in this city and in the club.”

The Boys in Gold will play their first home match of the season on Sunday, May 1 at 3 p.m. at the brand new GEODIS Park to a sold out crowd.

Walker & Sally Zimmerman Start Men’s Soccer Endowed Scholarship At Furman University

Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman and his wife Sally have announced the Walker and Sarah Tucker Zimmerman Endowed Scholarship for Men’s Soccer at Furman University.

The Zimmermans’ commitment is part of a larger effort surrounding men’s soccer to expand scholarships through endowment, while creating greater long-term financial sustainability for the program. The effort, led by former players Rob Victor, Graham Seagraves and David May, and Spinx chairman Steve Spinks in partnership with Furman Athletics, has raised $1 million for the men’s soccer scholarship endowment and maintains a goal of raising $2 million total. Before this fundraising initiative began, the men’s soccer scholarship endowment stood at only $27,000.

“My wife, Sally, and I are thrilled with the opportunity to give back to the school and soccer program that brought us together,” says Zimmerman. “We believe Furman soccer is special, and are excited about being committed to help build a positive future for the program.”

The Zimmerman’s both attended Furman and Walker played two seasons on the soccer team. He recorded 11 goals and five assists and helped the program to a 26-8-7 record during his time in Greenville.

In 2011, Zimmerman was named to College Soccer News and Soccer America’s Freshman All-America First Team squads while garnering Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and first team all-league honors as the Paladins posted a 14-4-4 record and earned an NCAA berth. In 2012, Zimmerman played in and started 17 games while scoring six goals and adding three assists. He captured College Soccer News First Team and NSCAA Second Team All-America honors after leading the Paladins to a 12-4-3 record and captured first team All-SoCon accolades.

“Furman Athletics is deeply grateful for the generosity, leadership and friendship of Walker and Sally Zimmerman,” says Furman Athletics Director Jason Donnelly. “Walker and Sally’s passion for Furman University is inspiring and the creation of their endowment will allow Furman soccer to continue to provide transformational opportunities for talented student-athletes seeking academics and athletics excellence. We are proud of Walker’s impressive accomplishments on the field for Nashville SC and the United States National Team and admire the Zimmermans for their impact upon Furman and the Nashville community.”

Zimmerman is set to become only the third player in program history to compete in a FIFA World Cup later this winter in Qatar. He will join Furman Athletics Hall of Famers Ricardo Clark and Clint Dempsey as the only players in program history to appear in a FIFA World Cup

College Corner: Rae Burell, Rick Byrd, Former Bruin Darby Maggard

Lady Vol Rae Burrell Drafted By Los Angeles Sparks

Rae Burrell. Photo: Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

University of Tennessee women’s basketball standout Rae Burrell was selected in the 2022 WBNA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks with the No. 9 overall pick.

Burrell became the 44th Lady Vol, including the second of the three-year Kellie Harper era, to be drafted into the WBNA.

“Rae Burrell is a physically-gifted player with a high motor who worked very hard to put herself in position to be selected in the WNBA Draft,” says Harper. “She is an intense competitor who had to overcome an unfortunate injury suffered early during her senior season. We’re proud of the development Rae made during her time at Tennessee and look forward to watching her continue to blossom in her professional career.”

She ranks No. 36 in all-time scoring with 1,131 points with the Lady Vols. Burrell played in 110 games for the Big Orange, starting in 47. She finished her time at UT with averages of 10.3 points and 4.2 rebounds, shooting 40.2 percent from the field and improving her free-throw shooting from 57 and 60 percent her first two seasons to 83 and 79 over the final two.

 

 

Rick Byrd Receives 2022 Wooden Award Legends Of Coaching

Pictured (L-R): Sam Lagana, chairman of the John R. Wooden Awards program, Rick Byrd. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont University

Former Belmont men’s basketball head coach Rick Byrd has received the 2022 John R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching.

Byrd retired in 2019 after spending 33 years as Belmont’s head coach, winning 805 career wins. He led the Bruins to eight NCAA Tournament appearances

“There is no coach in the history of the game of basketball that embodied excellence, integrity and humility like John Wooden,” says Byrd. “As a young man, I was certainly influenced by his remarkable coaching success, but even more so by his personal character and Christian commitment. The examples he set have stayed with me throughout my coaching career and personal life. I am overwhelmed and grateful to be named the recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award for 2022.”

First handed out in 1999, the Wooden Award Legends of Coaching distinction is regarded as the highest honor in collegiate coaching. Recipients comprise a veritable who’s who in the history of college basketball, including Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma and inaugural recipient Dean Smith.

 

 

Former Bruin Darby Maggard Named Huntington University Head Coach

Darby Maggard. Photo: Courtesy Belmont Vision

Former Belmont women’s basketball superstar Darby Maggard has been named the head coach for Hunting University’s D III women’s basketball team.

Maggard played two seasons of professional basketball prior to being named assistant coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin. As assistant coach, she was responsible for recruitment, player development and game preparation.

“I am incredibly excited to be the next head coach at Huntington University,” says Maggard. “Huntington lines up with everything I believe in and have a deep passion for. I’d like to thank Dr. Emberton and the committee for believing in me. I’d also like to thank Lori Culler for the positive culture that she has created and the solid foundation of Christ that she has built this program on. This is truly a dream come true for me, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Maggard owns the most records in program history. She holds the record for career three-point field goal percentage (43.1) and free-throw percentage (92.4.) She is a four-time OVC Tournament Champion with four NCAA Tournament appearances, and she made NCAA history by making 430 threes and 650 assists in her career. She was an AP All-American in 2019.

Bernard Childress Retires After Serving 13 Years As TSSAA Executive Director

Bernard Childress. Photo: Courtesy of the TSSAA

Executive Director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) Bernard Childress, has announced his retirement, effective June 30, after spending 13 years as the executive officer of the organization.

The Columbia, Tennessee native, was hired as an Assistant Executive Director of TSSAA in the summer of 1995. He was the first African American individual to serve at TSSAA in an executive capacity and was promoted to the position of Executive Director in 2009 after 14 years with the organization.

Under Childress’ leadership, the association became an early participant in the InSideOut Initiative, a partnership between TSSAA, the Tennessee Titans and the NFL Foundation. The program continues to help schools build a culture of positive sportsmanship and shift from a “win-at-all-cost” mentality to one where athletics solidifies its role in the character development of athletes.

The association launched its official website in 2017 under Childress which has become the public face of TSSAA championships and home to historical information on the schools and athletes that have participated in TSSAA events. Two major refurbishments to the association’s main website have also taken place under Childress. The most recent updates in 2019 saw the addition of specially-tailored landing pages for individual interest groups and the publishing of in-depth news articles and feature stories about the people and schools of TSSAA.

Childress was instrumental in numerous milestones that have shaped the association, including his work to meet the significant challenges faced by the association and its member schools through the COVID-19 pandemic. Childress and his staff worked with health professionals and the Governor’s office to develop safety protocols for student-athletes and fans, which ultimately led to the resumption of athletic participation among TSSAA member schools in the fall of 2020.

Assistant Executive Director Mark Reeves will succeed Childress as the fifth Executive Director of the TSSAA following Board of Control vote.

“I am incredibly humbled to lead an organization that I have grown to love,” says Reeves. “I’ve devoted my life to education and educational athletics and there’s no other work I’d rather be a part of.

“With the staff we currently have, I can’t help but be excited to lead this organization forward. My hope is that we can continue to enhance the lives of the young people we serve and that through our efforts we can produce young men and women who are capable of making a positive impact in this world.”

In his 14 years on staff at TSSAA, Reeves has had primary responsibility for several sports including football and track & field and currently oversees soccer, wrestling and the areas of coaches education and sports medicine. Reeves has served on a number of committees for the National Federation of State High School Associations including the NFHS Football Rules Committee, the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee, and most recently the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

He becomes takes over the role as executive director on July 1, 2022.

Olympian Missy Franklin Brings Swim Across America To Nashville

Missy Franklin (L) with the Swim Across America team. Photo: Courtesy of Swim Across America

Swim Across America (SAA) is coming to Nashville for the first time ever with the help of five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin on April 23.

SAA is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide, as well as past and current Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service.

“Having Missy be a part of our team organizing this inaugural event in Nashville has been so helpful,” says Chris McPhearson, the Nashville SAA event director. “We are really excited to bring Swim Across America to Nashville and have already gotten a great response from local Nashville residents who want to help #makewaves to #fightcancer.”

Funds raised by Swim Across America at the Nashville event will go directly to support cancer research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Vanderbilt-Ingram is an inclusive, collaborative, interdisciplinary cancer research community with more than 280 members dedicated to advancing discoveries in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for both adult and pediatric cancers.

Photo: Courtesy of Save Across America.

“I’m beyond excited to be part of the inaugural swim in Nashville that will raise much-needed funds for crucial cancer research,” says Franklin. “Working with the local event director Chris McPherson has been great. Chis is passionate about finding better ways to treat cancer and to doing that by bringing Swim Across America to Nashville. It’s going to be a really fun, inspirational day!”

The Swim Across America Nashville event will be a team relay charity swim held Saturday, April 23 at the Ensworth Natatorium, Frist Campus. Registration is a $50 self-donation with all proceeds benefitting the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Those interested in participating can register at swimacrossamerica.org/nashville.

Swim Across America was founded in 1987 by Matt Vossler and his lifelong friend and college roommate Jeff Keith, who is a cancer survivor. Throughout its years, SAA has raised $100 million in the fight against cancer. More than 150 Olympians support SAA, including Franklin, Michael Phelps, Craig Beardsley, Donna De Varona, Rowdy Gaines, Janel Jorgensen McArdle, Bobby Hackett, Ryan Lochte, Glenn Mills, Elizabeth Beisel, Jenny Thompson, Cristina Teuscher and more.

The Sports Credential Essentials—April 2022

With spring already here, April is set to be a busy and exciting month for Nashville sports fans. This month will see the Predators season wrapping up with the playoffs on the line, the Sounds kicking off its season, and the St. Jude’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series once again hitting downtown.

The first weekend of April is already packed with Vanderbilt baseball hosting nationally ranked and SEC rival No. 1 Tennessee at Hawkins Field from April 1-3. Also this weekend is the 118th Opening Night for the Fairground Speedway where fans can catch a Pro Late Model race on Saturday (April 2).

On the ice, the Predators are playing nine home games, hosting Central Division rivals Minnesota Wild twice and the St. Louis Blues in the final month of the regular season.

For more events and games, head to The Sports Credential calendar.

APRIL 1-3
No. 9 Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 Tennessee at Hawkins Field
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 2
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway 118th Season Opener
Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville SC vs. Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field
Columbus, Ohio

APRIL 5
Nashville Sounds Opening Day vs. Durham Bulls at First Horizon Park
Nashville, Tennessee

Predators vs. Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 9
Hockey Fights Pediatric Cancer Night at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 17
Predators vs. St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena

APRIL 19-24
Nashville Sounds Six-Game Series vs. Charolette Knights at First Horizon Park
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 21
Nashville Metro Sports Authority Board Meeting at Geodis Park
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 23-24
St. Jude’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Through Downtown
Nashville, Tennessee

APRIL 26
Predators Final Home Game of Regular Season vs. Calgary Flames
Nashville, Tennessee

The Sports Credential Essentials—March 2022

Nashville sports are coming out swinging this month with action from the Preds, Nashville SC, the beginning of the 2022 college baseball season, and more.

This month, Music City is hosting the SEC Women’s Basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena from March 2-6, where Vanderbilt and Tennessee will fight for a chance to hoist the conference championship trophy.

On the ice, the Predators are playing a couple of games with massive playoff implications. The Preds will face Western Conference rivals the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues as the NHL continues to wind-down.

For more events and games, head to The Sports Credential calendar.

MARCH 2-6
SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 5
Nashville SC vs. Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field
Saint Paul, Minnesota

MARCH 8
Predators vs. Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 10
Nashville Metro Sports Authority Board Meeting at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 11
Wine Festival and Tasting Presented by Deacon’s New South at Bridgestone
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 12
Predators vs. St. Louis at Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 22
Vanderbilt Baseball vs. Belmont Baseball at First Horizon Park
Nashville, Tennessee

MARCH 29
Vanderbilt Baseball vs. Lipscomb Baseball at First Horizon Park
Nashville, Tennessee