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College Sports as Big Business, Student Athlete Compensation, and NCAA Enforcement: Panels Discuss the New Normal in College Sports at School of Law Conference

"College athletics is one of the last pure things," said Roger Cossack, Pepperdine University School of Law Distinguished Visiting Professor and ESPN Legal Analyst, as he introduced the first of four panels assembled at the School of Law on April 5 for a conference about college sports. "You can root for your team, and root against the other team, but it's pure joy."

However, Cossack continued, that joy is under threat; college athletic programs need more money to compete at a high level, and every day, he said, it seems that the news headlines are filled with college athletic programs that are mired on controversy in one way or another.

"The New Normal in College Sports: Realigned and Reckoning" took place at the School of Law, Malibu, all day April 5 to address some of these issues, and more. Co-hosted by the School of Law and the Pepperdine Law Review, the event featured four panel discussions with leading academics, university administrators, and practitioners in a variety of areas, including: a conversation with institutional leaders of major intercollegiate athletic programs; a consideration of the possibility of an antitrust exemption for the NCAA; the impact of conference realignment, digital media, broadcasting, and commercialization; and other emerging hot topics in college sports. In addition, Jeff Moorad, founder of Moorad Sports Management, provided the keynote address.

"The Pepperdine University School of Law has developed a very strong program in sports law and sports mediation and arbitration and our students just won one of the most prestigious competitions in this arena," notes School of Law Dean, Deanell Reece Tacha. "This symposium was an opportunity for our students and many area lawyers to be engaged in cutting edge thinking and legal issues in sports. Lawyers are employed in many aspects of sports at all levels."

Examples include the director of the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School Andrew Brandt, who is also an NFL Business Analyst for ESPN, columnist for, and co-founder of The National Football Post. He commented extensively on the dueling roles of athletics versus academia in a student-athlete's college career, saying that athletic involvement often dominates that young person's college experience if they are playing a high-profile, money-making sport—which is why colleges, athletes, and the NCAA continue to debate the possibilities of monetary compensation for student athletes.

"The point that can be made for academia in the NCAA," Brandt countered, "is that they don't just have football and basketball, which make a lot of money… There are also 12 other sports that don't make money. What about the logistics of paying athletes on teams that don't bring in money for the school? That would have to be factored in to it."

Other topics discussed by the panels included legal liabilities of injuries sustained by student-athletes; Rod Smith—director of Sports Law and professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law—pointed out concussions, which could have academic consequences, account for 74 percent of injuries sustained by college football stars.

They also discussed infamous incidences that have made the news recently, including the Penn State Sandusky child-abuse cover-up scandal and Louisville Cardinal's basketball star Kevin Ware's horrifying leg break, which happened during a match live on air last month.

Speakers included Cossack, Brandt, and Smith; Judge Ken Starr, President, Baylor University; Britt Banowsky, Conference Commissioner; Steve Potts, Athletic Director, Pepperdine University; Dave Roberts, Vice President for Compliance, USC; Maureen Weston, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; Daniel E. Lazaroff, Professor of Law and Director, Loyola Sports Law Institute at Loyola Law School; Gabe Feldman, Associate Professor, Tulane Law School; Director, Tulane Sports Law Program; and Associate Provost for NCAA Compliance; Jeffrey Standen, Professor, Willamette University; Michael McCann, Director of the Sports Law Institute and Professor of Law, Vermont Law School; Ed Larson, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; Matt Mitten, Professor of Law and Director, National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University Law School; Rod Smith, Director of Sports Law & Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Brian Halloran, NCAA Perspective; Andrew Brandt, NFL Business Analyst, ESPN; Columnist for; Director, Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School; and Co-Founder, The National Football Post; Brian Marler, Director, Houlihan Lokey; Babette E. Boliek, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; and Mark Fainaru-Wada, Reporter, ESPN Investigations/Enterprise Unit.

"Pepperdine law school has unique strengths in training students for these opportunities," adds Dean Tacha. "This symposium and the Pepperdine Law Review publication of the presentations highlights the important work that this law school is doing in the area of sports law. We are indebted to the distinguished speakers who have made such important contributions to our work through their participation."

Pepperdine Law Review

A scholarly law journal published by second- and third-year law students at the Pepperdine University School of Law, the Pepperdine Law Review was founded in 1972. In its 40 years of existence, the Pepperdine Law Review has been a resource for practitioners, law professors, and judges alike and has been cited several times by the Supreme Court. Written contributions to the symposium will be published in Issue 5 of Volume 40.