A recent paper by Jose Manuel Sanchez Santosand Pablo Castellanos Garcia in the International Journal of Sport Finance puts forth rankings of Sports Economics papers and Sports Economists. They create an index for this ranking (please refer to the paper if you're interested). Of course, there are lots of familiar names on there, but what I wanted to highlight here was the dominance (in a self-interested light, of course) of the University of Michigan Sport Management Program in the field of Sports Economics, Sport Finance and Development. Based on the rankings, we have the #1 (Stefan Szymanski), #3 (Rodney Fort), #27 (Mark Rosentraub) and #57 (Jason Winfree) academic sports economists in the world. They are all within the department. Quite a powerhouse we have here :-)
The University of Alberta comes in with Brad Humphreys (#4) and Dan Mason (#7), but they are technically in different departments there. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mason as well as another ranked economist in the paper, Joel Maxcy (who is now at Temple). I am happy to say that I have had some email contact with both Young Hoon Lee (who has helped me immensely in the econometrics programming in my dissertation) as well as JC Bradbury.
Other familiar names abound on the list, and I look forward to meeting #21 Andrew Zimablist in November when he comes to speak about Title IX. These rankings are always a fun exercise, but aren't necessarily any sort of end all at the 'best' researchers out there. However, I think there is little doubt that this is a headquarters for sports economics. Each of the professors listed above are very different, which gives us great diversity as well.
I have benefitted immensely from the structure of the department here at Michigan (as well as other departments). Much of this was luck, as I arrived at the right time when serious evolution of the faculty and program was taking place. There is no doubt that--for the quantitatively and economically inclined sport fan--this is the place to be. For those interested in other aspects of Sport Management, we have some pretty powerful faculty as well. It's really been quite a thrill to bump elbows with many of those on this list, and it's been an honor to study here in the department for going on 5 years!