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NFL Negotiation Competition Offers Lessons From Sports Law VIPs

February 01, 2018 3:23 AM

Getting a mock salary deal between an NFL player and owners drew 36 teams to Tulane Law School Jan. 26-27 for the Professional Football Negotiation Competition which entered its fourth year organized by the Tulane Sports Law Society. The finals brought two teams together; Chapman University Law School represented the Detroit Lions and Villanova Law School represented soon-to-be free agent and Lions’ defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Both teams argued ardently for their respective positions, hoping to persuade judges – representing football industry leaders – that they could cut the best deal for their side.  Unlike the earlier International Baseball Arbitration Competition, the NFL negotiation teams seek a deal between player and club, not just present arguments for or against the salary a player has requested. For about 45 minutes, the two final teams sought salary and compensation terms that gave Ansah what he wanted and what the team believed to be his “market value.” In the end, both sides agreed to a $58.5 million, four-year contract that was packed with bonuses and potential future earnings based on performance. But only one team could win, and it was Chapman Law who took home the championship trophy. Teammates Spencer Shain and Jared Silverstone, both 3Ls, won by a razor-thin margin of 3-2. The judges said they had held their position well, although they had provided a starting salary point so low some judges had expected the players’ negotiators initially to walk, sending Ansah into free agency. The Villanova team pushed hard for a large signing bonus, plus workout incentives. Overall, the five finalist judges were impressed with the competition. Throughout the two-day event, exclusively organized by Tulane students, there were experts from around the country who help judge every team’s performance including a number of Tulane alumni. Some of them helped launch the competition four years ago.

The judges were: •    Nick Sabella (L’12), Football Administration Coordinator, Chicago Bears •    Ryan Feder (L’15), Football Technology Analyst, Green Bay Packers •    Brandon Shore, Senior Director, Football Administration, Miami Dolphins •    Khai Harley ,  Vice President of Football Administration, New Orleans Saints •    James Waldhauser , Shareholder, Cousineau, Waldhauser, & Kieselbach P.A •    Jason Fitzgerald,  Founder of •    AJ Stevens (L’16),  Football Administration Assistant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers •    Greg Castillo (L’17), former Scouting Assistant, New Orleans Saints who is joining the Kansas City Chiefs •    J.I. Halsell, Curator of •    Jacqueline Davidson,  Director of Football Administration, New York Jets •    Bryce Johnston, Football Administration, Philadelphia Eagles •    Tate Martin (L’17), NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor, Cavignac Sports •    Harrison Smith (L’16), NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor, Paradigm Sports Tulane Sports Law Society Board Member and co-chair of the competition, Erin O’Neill (L’18), said the competition provides law students with an incredible opportunity to network with professionals in the industry as well as improve their negotiation skills. “Any law students that are serious about pursuing a career in the NFL should be looking into this competition,” O’Neill said.   Tulane Law School Dean David Meyer praised competition and the success of the Sports Law Program, which is producing alumni that quickly are joining to the top ranks of the sports world.   He pointed to Castillo, who judged the weekend competition and who was recently hired by  the Kansas City Chiefs; Marshall Rader (L’16), who is joining the Los Angeles Lakers; and alumna Dameka Fields (L’16), who has parlayed an internship with the Minnesota Vikings into a full-time job in the team’s legal and business affairs division.   “This is one of the most dynamic areas of law and we are so pleased to see the success of this fully student-run competition,” Meyer said. “Our students are learning from the best in the field how to be top negotiators and arbitrators and the sports industry sees them as great assets.”