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Sports law internships give Tulane students an edge

December 03, 2014

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Tulane Law alumni who’ve helped sports law students build skills and connections in the industry include Mike Tannenbaum (L ’95), who leads the Coaches, Front Office & Broadcasters Division of management firm Priority Sports.

Photo by Nancy Borowick, Courtesy of Priority Sports 

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Tulane Law/MBA student Kyle Wallace, who expects to graduate in 2015, has handled contract research for Priority Sports, starting with a summer internship and continuing through the fall semester.

Photo by Ali Mansfield 

As an intern for one of the country’s leading sports agencies, Tulane Law student Kyle Wallace had a hand in the full range of services required in representing high-flying figures in the sports industry.

Wallace spent much of last summer collecting and combing through college coaches’ contracts to build a database of perks that could be used in negotiating terms on behalf of the agency’s clients.

When the firm he was working for, Priority Sports, was helping secure the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job for client David Blatt, Wallace’s role was to contact freight transporters to get Blatt’s household moved from Israel to the U.S.

Wallace has continued his work for Priority Sports during the fall semester from New Orleans, including reviewing and editing clients’ contracts and discussing future strategies for the agency’s new Coaches, Front Office & Broadcasters Division, which is led by Tulane Law graduate Mike Tannenbaum (L ’95).

The experience has taken Wallace inside the industry, where he’s building skills and relationships that are critical in a highly competitive field. It’s the kind of real-world immersion through which Tulane has developed the premier Sports Law program in the United States.

“There’s nothing like marrying a world-class education and practical education in the field,” said Tannenbaum (L ’95), who came to Tulane for its Sports Law program and joined the New York Jets after law school, rising to general manager in 2006-12.

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A New York Jets football jersey donated by former General Manager Mike Tannenbaum (L ’95), now a sports agent, adorns the Weinmann Hall main corridor alongside a hockey jersey donated by Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi (L ’85).

Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo 

Wallace, who expects to finish a dual JD/MBA degree in 2015, was among more than 20 Tulane Law students who landed summer jobs in sports management and marketing, thanks to a burgeoning network of alumni and other key connections.

In addition to Priority Sports, students spent summer 2014 at the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office, the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards, NCAA Enforcement Services, the Philadelphia Eagles and other sports management and industry-related organizations.

Tannenbaum said he feels “an affirmative responsibility to give back” to the law school for enabling him to fulfill his dream of working in the National Football League. A Jets jersey that he donated to the law school is displayed in Weinmann Hall’s main corridor, alongside a Los Angeles Kings hockey jersey presented by Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi (L ’85).

Tannenbaum attended Tulane to study sports law, and he gained both hands-on training (working for the New Orleans Saints) and valuable legal knowledge (such as learning about the collective bargaining agreements that govern pro sports for athletes and team owners).

Similarly, Wallace said he came to Tulane because “I knew I wanted to try to incorporate sports into my legal education.”

His goal is to handle contract negotiations for a National Hockey League team. In October, he and John Fabiano, also a JD/MBA student, were one of the first two U.S. teams to compete at the University of Toronto’s Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada, which is modeled on Tulane’s long-running National Baseball Arbitration Competition.

The sports-themed competitions are an increasingly popular mechanism for developing legal skills and networking but also for building the sports law program’s reputation. 

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The Tulane Sports Law Society hosted NBA executives, including Brandon James (standing), director of basketball administration and legal affairs for the San Antonio Spurs, and J.J. Polk (seated), executive director of basketball administration for the New Orleans Pelicans, for a discussion about the industry before a November Pelicans game.

Photo courtesy of the Tulane Sports Law Society 

Ryan Feder (L ’15), president of the Tulane Sports Law Society, which organizes the baseball event, said that when students job-hunt, “people ask about the baseball arbitration competition even if they’re not in baseball.”

Feder said the society plans to launch a pro football negotiation competition in the spring. Group members also are working to help fellow students land and learn from internships, even as they compete for those positions.

“What we’ve worked to do here is build a community of students that want to work together … to really find out what can we do to make ourselves better,” Feder said.

Professor Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law program, said the internships are designed to provide students with experience, exposure and contacts. Starting in 2015, students chosen for the two NCAA enforcement office jobs also can receive academic credit, a model Feldman said he hopes to extend to other internships.

Feder cited classmate Marshall Rader (L ’15) as an example of a student who has parlayed connections into enviable opportunities: He helped former NBA player and New Orleans Pelicans analyst Stephen Howard with statistics then landed internships with the Spurs and National Basketball Players Association. This fall, he’s been away from school working in the Indiana Pacers’ front office.

“Providing practical experience and networking opportunities is an integral part of the Tulane Sports Law program,” Feldman said.


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