ASU Law degree program helps service members work toward a sports career

Kaylah Jackson
March 28, 2018 - 4:37 pm

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Along with Arizona State University's Law's Sports Law and Business program and Sun Devil Athletics, the partnership has created an online prorgram for veterans or active-duty service members who aspire to work in the sports industry.

The Veterans Sports Law and Business program is a a 30-credit, yearlong online Master of Legal Studies degree. Students will also be paired with mentors, career coaches and industry professionals to guide them through the program and remain a support systems as they graduate.

"We are grateful to all who have served, and we are excited to be launching a degree program specifically for people with a militarybackground," ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said. "This unique program will build on the high-level skills and training these people already possess and prepare them to make a successful transition into the sports world."

With the inaguural class having no more than 20 students, the VSLB program focuses on highlighting military leadership skills and experiences and how they can transfer to high-demand sports industry jobs such as facilities operations, event planning and security, data and analytics and ticketing and sales.

Glenn Wong, executive director of the Sports Law and Business program, said the idea for the online degree was shaped in part by discussions with Natesh Rao, a retired Navy commander and senior associate athletic director who will spearhead the program for Sun Devil Athletics.

"In our conversations with Natesh, we realized that there is a significant opportunity to impact the lives of veterans in the form of post-service education," Wong said. "We also learned that many in the military have a particular interest in the sports industry."

For Rao, the mission of the program is deeply personal. During a 20-year military career, he worked with executives in college and professional athletics, building an impressive resume full of experience, along with a strong network of mentors. He hoped to parlay that into a rewarding career in sports. But the transition from military to sports was difficult, and he struggled to find a job that he was passionate about.

"I met with an executive from an NFL team who said, 'Hey, your career in the military is great, and we value that. But you're not going to get a position in a professional organization based on what you did in the military,'" Rao said. "So when I approached Glenn and Sam about this program, we talked about developing something where we can give a foundation of courses and a background to help veterans transition into the sports world."

Rao knows firsthand that it is not easy for veterans to find positions in sports organizations that are commensurate with the level of experience they bring from the military.

"The chance to pursue a graduate degree that not only prepares veterans for careers in sports but also provides access to industry executives that can serve as mentors will be a game-changer," he said. "This program will provide veterans with the foundation and

credibility to be successful in any sports organization." Sam Renaut, assistant director of the Sports Law and Business program, said the program fits in perfectly with ASU's culture of innovation.

"ASU is so well-known for innovative ways of learning, and ASU online in particular is moving so quickly to build out all these incredible new methods of delivering content," he said. "We saw this as a really good opportunity to use curriculum that already exists and cater it specifically to the strengths of veterans."

Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who served as the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, will be an adviser to theprogram. He says it will focus specifically on transferring veterans' existing skills and expertise, helping them develop a post-military career as rewarding as their first.

"For the past 40 years, I've interacted with American service members on a daily basis," he said. "The skills developed during their service- including unmatched work ethic, attention to detail, and maturity and focus under pressure - pair perfectly with the core competencies required for many positions in the sports industry."

Breedlove applauded the focus and vision of the program, saying it'sunlike anything he has seen before."I look forward to advising this initiative as it seeks to assist our service members to continue their remarkable contributions to American society," he said.

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is ranked No. 27 nationally by U.S. News & World Report.