ASU to debut groundbreaking sports law program in the fall

This fall ASU will debut a sports law program that combines aspects of sports law and business.

The W. P. Carey School of Business and Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law are working together to offer two sports law graduate degrees that can each be earned in one year of study.

The program will be the first of its kind and will combine business courses, law classes and hands-on externship experience.

In its first year, the program will accept fewer than 30 students for each degree program. One will be a master of legal studies for students without a law background and the other will be a master of laws for those students who have already graduated from law school.

Professor Rodney Smith, director of the programs, said both programs will focus on solving problems in the sports world using “the three R’s:” regulation, revenue and reputation.

“With any problem, in order to solve it adequately, you need to apply all three,” Smith said. “Lawyers are usually very good at regulation. Business people are usually good at the revenue side and occasionally the reputation. They tend to isolate their solution to their skill set but people working in the industry need to understand all three.”

Smith said many of the classes students in this program will take will be oriented toward problem solving.

“On your résumé, you can have PDFs of these projects that show potential employers that you’ve wrestled with problems that they themselves have identified as important,” he said. “And people can move upwards if they can solve problems.”

Michael Mokwa, a professor in the W. P. Carey school, will serve as the coordinator of the business portion of the program.

Mokwa said the combination of both law and business in the sports context is the first of its kind.

“We are going to go ahead and give students enough advanced fundamentals of business and advanced fundamentals of law in a sports context then combine the two so students can see both sides of issues,” he said. “And that’s unique. We know of no other educational program that would provide and integrate these foundations of these two fields in the sports context.”

Mokwa also said he agreed that the program will give students a leg up in the job market.

“By giving students perspective of business and law in the sports context, it will position them distinctly for jobs in sports organizations but also in legal organizations and consulting organizations and really all sorts of organizations that deal with sports,” he said. “To understand law and business in sports is going to be a very powerful combination.”

In addition to helping students uniquely position themselves in the sports industry, Smith said the program will enable them to positively impact society.

“Sports are a very powerful but very understudied area,” he said. “In sports, you can make such a wonderful difference in the world we live. The program will ultimately not only provide a very able group of professionals but make a real impact on society.”

Smith said he hopes the program will continue to grow and expand in the future.

“We would like to get (the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication) involved at some point,” he said. “It’ll get more involvement from people in journalism and communication.”

Reach the reporter at icbeck@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @ICBeck21.