The Magnificent 7: Teaching Through Real-Life Experiences

p>When you ask the Sports Law & Business Program director at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law what makes the program unique there’s no hesitation in his response – the faculty. So much so the department has coined the current group of teaching faculty associates the “Magnificent Seven.”

Though the faculty list reads like the who’s who list of sports luminaries including Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and ASU Athletics Director Ray Anderson, they also have an impressive roster of faculty associates, who are at the peak of their careers.

Why are they called the “Magnificent Seven?” “It’s more an internal term we use,“ explained Glenn Wong, director of the Sports Law & Business Program. “We are privileged to have seven faculty associates who have nearly 150 years of combined sports industry experience. This group is truly exceptional and includes lawyers, team and university management, branding experts, and a former league commissioner.”

According to Wong, the faculty's ability to convey the knowledge and expertise in an applicable manner is incredibly valuable for the students. Through a combination of in-depth discussions on state and league rules regarding sports gambling, developing new platforms to deliver sports content, or by holding mock NCAA infractions hearings, this group has made a significant impact on the Sports Law & Business Program's innovative curriculum.

Teaching the Next Generation of Sports Industry Leaders

Professor Rocky Harris, now in his third year of teaching for the program, strives to make sure his classroom experience is atypical.

“I teach some of the classes at the Sun Devil stadium or in conferences rooms, real world places where they might interact with people while they are working,” Harris said. “My teaching style is to give them an experience they wouldn’t have in another class. What I’ve found is when you can differentiate the class from other classes, students tend to absorb more from that class.”

Harris was also part of the team that helped conceptualize the SLB Program. Two things were very important to him to ensure it was differentiated from other programs across the country - that it have both a sports law and business component.

“Contract negotiations is a big part of the business. Currently there aren't a lot of people with the skills and experiences to be able to look at a contract and understand the legal side and the business deal points. That intersection is critical in our industry.”

The second was that it had an applied part to the curriculum rather. One of the big projects in Harris’ class is creating a business plan for a real sports problem. Harris approaches his colleagues in Sun Devil Athletics and other sports organizations to see if they have any projects for the students to work on. The students are required to put together a business plan that includes clear goals, conceptualizes, and implements the project.

“The thing that I like most about this project is that it helps the sports industry solve problems. And it gives students something to put on their resumes. Something they can bring with them on their interview,” Harris explained.

Affirming that this method of teaching resonates, “students have told me that the faculty associates were an important factor in their decision to attend ASU Law,” Wong said.

The ultimate stamp of approval.

Meet the Magnificent Seven

Steven Adelman

Steven Adelman focuses on the safety and security issues that arise when people are invited to enter a public accommodation for a live event. Adelman litigated a case in 2002 in which a young man nearly died in a crowd crush during a large music festival. During the two years of discovery, which included deposing rap artist Eminem, he was exposed to the body of literature regarding crowd management, emergency planning, risk management, and biomechanics which has been incorporated into important treatises, industry codes and regulations. Adelman teaches “Venue Management.”

Don Gibson

Don Gibson worked eight years with Major League Baseball. He first served as an attorney in the Commissioner’s Office, then as vice president and general counsel, and as senior vice president/acting president, of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., the division responsible for Major League Baseball’s licensing, corporate sponsorship, special events and marketing. Following his tenure with Major League Baseball, Don served as the chief executive of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Gibson teaches the “Amateur Sports Law, Persona & Business Branding Sports” course.

Rocky Harris

Rocky Harris is the chief operating officer for the Sun Devil Athletics department and directs overall strategic planning, implementation, administration, direction, supervision, and day-to-day operations, facilitating key departmental priorities and managing a wide range of matters of institutional importance on behalf of the athletics director. Harris also serves as the liaison with the Pac-12 Conference, as well as University and community constituencies. Harris arrived at ASU after serving as senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo and AEG Global Partnerships. Harris teaches the “Sports Business Development” class.

Dana Hooper

Dana Hooper is a sports agent and a shareholder at international multi-practice law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Hooper also played soccer at the University of California, Berkeley. Hooper is certified as an athlete's agent and provides legal representation to sports-oriented individuals and businesses. Her experiences in professional sports and negotiation tables helps her shape the “Professional Sports Law” course she teaches.

Caleb Jay

Caleb Jay is senior counsel for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He spent eleven seasons with the Oakland Athletics, joining the team as a bat boy in 1995, and working his way up to assistant general counsel, a position he held from 2003-2005. Jay teaches the “Pro Team Sports: Legal Issues in Business Operations” class.

Travis Leach

Travis Leach is a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP and focuses on corporate and securities law, with an emphasis on public offerings, private placements, corporate governance matters, Sarbanes-Oxley and SEC compliance, and mergers and acquisitions. He represents a number of public and private companies in a variety of matters. Through his vast background Leach teaches the “Sports Venues: Legal and Financial Issues” class.

Stephen Webb

Stephen Webb is the executive director and chief athletics compliance officer. He oversees Arizona State University's Athletics Compliance Office, including the office's efforts to deter and detect violations of NCAA, Pac-12 Conference, and institutional athletics rules and regulations. Webb joined ASU after spending six years in Indianapolis at the NCAA national office and its Eligibility Center. He teaches “NCAA Infractions/Compliance.”