Release Date: April 1, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sports law expert Helen “Nellie” Drew’s expansive vision of the University at Buffalo School of Law’s new Center for the Advancement of Sport has all the features to fulfill its promise as an educational and research center unique in the U.S.
In place already are several key components, including the law school’s new concentration in sports law, and several graduates in high-profile jobs who are using skills honed at UB to take advantage of what Drew, director of the Center for the Advancement of Sport, calls the “exponential” growth of sports law and sports business fields.
Drew sees the center taking advantage of cross-disciplinary research teams already operating at the university, promoting sports-related legislation, and implementing a mentor/network system that, when up and running, would give the School of Law another talking point and signature identity.
When complete, there simply wouldn’t be another academic center like UB’s in the country, Drew says.
“Nobody has attempted to harness university-wide resources like this,” she explains, “and we want to make sure our students have rich, hands-on learning experiences and come out of UB absolutely qualified to assume many of the new jobs that are being formed in the sports industry.”
As just one example, she cites an anticipated boom in sports betting following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that authorizes states to offer such betting. That, she says, means jobs in such areas as legal policy, regulatory compliance and data analytics. And the sports industry is constantly redefining itself, as such topics as drugs in sports, legal gambling and sexual harassment become national issues.
Drew already has established her reputation as one of the country’s leading academic experts on sports issues. She defines the center like this: “The UB Center for the Advancement of Sport is interested in cross-disciplinary programming in terms of collaboration for research, as well as policy initiatives, to address certain areas that need regulation in the sports’ space.”
“To be able to have this place at UB and be able to give our students real-world applications, via sport, is tremendous,” says Mark Alnutt, UB’s director of athletics.
He notes the sports world has evolved dramatically in the past 10 years. To be able to provide “a broad platform” of sports issues at UB and the opportunity for students to interact with the sports world in general is a huge advantage for students, he says.
The center also could open doors for its student athletes, Alnutt says. Students would have the opportunity to pursue careers in professional athletics beyond coaching and becoming an athletic trainer. This new program will help recruit student athletes who may want to pursue careers in sports law and the sports industry.
“A lot of these young people want to be into representing student athletes at the agent level,” Alnutt says. “I think that is phenomenal. And I think to have that as another benefit of coming here to UB, this just opens up many more doors and opportunities from a career standpoint.”
As for successful UB graduates with promising careers in sports management and sports law, meet Shane Costa, director of football operations at Pillar Sports Management in Buffalo. Costa is an NFL agent whose clients include former Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson and UB Bulls football center James O’Hagan, who enters the NFL draft this year.
“I’m certified by the NFL Players Association to represent football players negotiating their contracts and handling their football-playing business careers,” says Costa, who graduated from the UB law school in 2013. “And so what I do on a day-to-day basis is really whatever the clients that I’ve signed need to have done to help them both, not only in negotiating their contracts and sponsorships, but also getting them ready day in and day out for life in the NFL… but also so that they can prepare for their careers when football is done.”
Costa’s enthusiasm for the possibilities of the sports law and sports industries is as high as his appreciation for the education he received while at the UB School of Law.
“Sports law is really a growing field,” he says. “I think anyone can recognize the NFL viewership revenue has continued to increase pretty much across the board, along with all the major sports.