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Leading Sports Law Expert to Head TJSL’s New Center for Sports Law and Policy

May 16, 2011

Rod Smith

Dean Rudy Hasl has announced that the co-author of one of the nation’s leading casebooks on sports law will be the inaugural director of the TJSL’s new academic Center for Sports Law and Policy starting this fall.  Rodney K. Smith, currently the President of Southern Virginia University, will assume his new role at TJSL in August. 

In addition to his administrative experience and expertise in sports law, Professor Smith is well versed in constitutional law and has published several scholarly works on the First Amendment and religion.   He also serves on the Advisory Board of the National Sports Law Institute and has served as a member of the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee.

“The addition of Rod Smith to the TJSL faculty provides an extraordinary opportunity to enhance the scholarly strength of the faculty, while at the same time providing for a concentration of courses in an area of particular interest to our students and of special interest to the San Diego area,” said Dean Hasl. 

Professor Smith, a native Californian, also has an impressive background in legal education, having served as dean or a professor at several law schools, including the University of North Dakota, Widener University, Capital University, the University of Montana, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Memphis.  He earned his law degree from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and his LL.M. and S.J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  He practiced law in Bishop, California, where he also served as City Attorney.  

“Thomas Jefferson School of Law is an ideal place in Southern California for a Center for Sports Law and Policy,” says Professor Smith, who toured the law school’s new East Village campus last week. “We’ll bring in leading thinkers on legal and policy issues, form valuable affiliations, and create a series of relevant courses that add up to a certificate program for Thomas Jefferson’s students.”

Some of the courses Professor Smith is considering for the new center include:   Professional Sports Law (similar to the course currently taught by TJSL alum and Board of Trustees member Randy Grossman ‘94), Amateur Sports Law, Sports Antitrust Law, Labor Law in Sports, Sports Law and the Media, and a practicum that would require students to work on major projects such as Title IX audits, sports contracts and negotiations. 

Also on his agenda is a national conference late in the fall semester related to the legal aspects of the controversy surrounding which college football teams should play for the national championship and which ones should play in major bowl games.  “We’re timing the conference so it will coincide with the decision as to which teams are going to play these games,” he said.

In addition to working on the third edition of his widely adopted casebook, Sports Law (West Publishing Company), Professor Smith is writing a new sports law book for the graduate level that he describes as “much shorter (than his 395-page casebook) and more focused on problems and policy issues.”

It is the focus on policy issues in the world of professional and amateur sports that he feels will distinguish the new center at Thomas Jefferson School of Law from the relatively small number of sports law programs at other law schools. 

“Policy leads to law,” notes Professor Smith.  “Thomas Jefferson students will be working on cutting-edge policy issues and that will open doors for them.  Their experience will be an interesting entrée in any employment interview.” 

Dean Hasl adds, “Our relocation to the Ballpark East area of downtown San Diego positions the law school for very creative work with the

Padres organization and with the growing field of amateur athletics.”

TJSL students have already demonstrated a significant interest in sports law, which makes the announcement of Professor Smith’s hiring and the launch of the new Center for Sports Law and Policy all the more timely.  For the past decade, the student Sports Law Society has hosted an annual sports symposium featuring prominent members of the sports industry.  Members of the law school’s Student Bar Association (SBA), Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, and Sports Law Society, with the assistance of Professor Grossman and others, have organized for this fall The First Annual National Sports Law Negotiation Competition & Sports Law Symposium for the weekend of Sept. 23 – 25.  Law schools throughout the country are already registering for the conference, including UCLA School of Law, which is sending two teams, Marquette University School of Law and Pace University School of Law.  

According to SBA President Jeremy Evans, there is no other competition like this in the nation with fact patterns that will focus on current, real-world sports issues such as contract negotiation; trading of players; salary demands and details; special requests and accommodations; intellectual property issues of individual athletes, leagues, teams, and licensing companies; television rights; and torts cases.