ASU Law assembles Hall of Fame lineup for sports program’s new advisory board

December 15, 2017

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has created an advisory board for its Sports Law and Business Program (SLB), featuring some of the most accomplished experts from the sports world.

Composed of both influential local and national members, the board brings together innovative thought leaders with legal, business and administrative expertise from across the entire sports spectrum. Collegiate, professional and international organizations are represented — from basketball, baseball, football and hockey, to golf, tennis and NASCAR. SLB Advisory Board members speak on Globalization of Sport panel SLB Advisory Board members speak on the Globalization of Sport panel. Photo by Lynn French Download Full Image

“The board is as diverse as the sports industry itself, which is incredibly vast and touches a number of different business and legal disciplines,” SLB Director Glenn Wong said.

Members of the newly formed board came from across the country to ASU Law’s Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix in November for a kick-off retreat, as well as to participate in a public three-part panel discussion on issues in sports.

“The vision this group has with the Sports Law and Business program to innovate, and the excitement and energy in the room, was great,” said board member David Gardi, senior vice president of football operations for the NFL.

Jeff Price is the chief commercial officer for PGA of America, and a longtime associate of Wong’s. For him, joining the board was an easy decision.

“It starts with Glenn Wong, whom I’ve had a relationship with for 30 years, going back to being his student at UMass in a graduate program too many years ago,” said Price, one of the panelists for a discussion on the globalization of sports. “He’s so innovative and had such an influence on so many people in the sports industry and so many of us. When he came here, he saw the dynamic environment at ASU Law, and the opportunity for training really, really smart and enthusiastic students who can come out and engage in the sports business immediately. And I think the combination of law and sports is something that there’s been a gap, and this program is uniquely solving that. So I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Robin Harris speaks on a Sports Law and Business panel discussing current business and legal issues in Intercollegiate Athletics
Robin Harris speaks on a panel discussing current business and legal issues in intercollegiate athletics. Photo by Lynn French

Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League, said the strong credentials of ASU Law’s SLB program motivated her to join the board.

“I researched the program, and I was really impressed with the curriculum,” Harris said. “As a lawyer who’s in sports, I think that this is serving a really important niche in combining the legal and business aspects of sports in a program that will really help young people get knowledge, understanding and training that will lead them into careers.”

And Harris likes that the program emphasizes careers in all levels of athletics — not just professional.

“Selfishly, I want to see more talented people in college sports,” she said. “Oftentimes, when business is put into the title, even though college sports is a business, as we know, young people want to go into the professional sports world or the corporate side. And I would like to see talented people stay a part of higher education.”

Gardi was also impressed by the SLB program, which he says offers the type of in-depth training needed to handle the complexities of high-level jobs in the sports industry. He would consider graduates of the program strong contenders for job opportunities in the NFL, crediting the breadth of the curriculum and the depth of the advisory board.

“I think the experience the students are getting here, and the education they’re getting here, will definitely serve them well and be able to advance them and get them in the door probably quicker than people at other schools that don’t have this type of program,” he said.

Price credits the practical experience he got working with Wong decades ago in helping him break into the sports industry, having gotten a job early in his career with the NBA. He says connecting the resources at ASU will provide graduates with similar advantages.

“I think the unique partnership that exists between the athletic department, the law school and the business school is one that is a great opportunity for the students, and they have to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s an incredibly competitive industry, and at the end of the day, the opportunity is there for them to differentiate themselves.”

And Price, like many other members of the board, is always looking for new talent.

“They can bring real skills that will help folks like me at the PGA of America and others across the industry to solve the problems that we have,” he said. “We’re looking for young talent to come in and really invigorate organizations. So I think it’s a unique opportunity that’s here for students in this program to take advantage of.”

Members of the Sports Law and Business advisory panel

Dale Adams, general manager Gila River Arena and vice president event development AEG Facilities

Ray Anderson, vice president for university athletics and athletics director, Arizona State University

Lon Babby, retired president of basketball operations, Phoenix Suns and retired player representative

Jeff Benz, mediator, arbitrator, referee, special master at JAMS

Kevin Blue, director of athletics, UC-Davis

Dan Burns, chief executive officer, EXOS

Peter Carlisle, senior vice president and managing director, Olympic and action sports division, Octagon

Gregg Clifton, office managing principal, Jackson Lewis (Phoenix Office)

Ahron Cohen, COO and general counsel, Arizona Coyotes

Woodie Dixon, general counsel and SVP, Pac-12 Conference

Richard Ensor, commissioner, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Troy Ewanchyna, VP and GM,

Mike Gallagher, principal/founder, Gallagher & Kennedy

Dave Gardi, senior vice president-football operations, National Football League

Jeff Gewirtz, vice president of business affairs and chief legal officer, Brooklyn Nets, New York Islanders and Barclays Center

Melissa Goldenberg, SVP and general counsel, Phoenix Suns

Robin Harris, executive director, The Ivy League

Rocky Harris, chief executive officer, USA Triathlon

Bill Hubbard, chairman, Tokio Marine HCC — Specialty Group

Jeff Ianello, executive vice president of client partnerships, Seatgeek

Zaileen Janmohamed, senior vice president, client consulting and services, GMR Marketing

Caleb Jay, senior counsel, Arizona Diamondbacks

Scott Kaufman-Ross, associate vice president, fantasy sports, National Basketball Association

Nina King, deputy director of athletics/administration, legal affairs and chief of staff, Duke University

Travis Leach, partner, chair of sports practice, Ballard Spahr

Nona Lee, senior vice president and general counsel, Arizona Diamondbacks

Burke Magnus, executive vice president, programming and scheduling, ESPN

John Martin, managing director, NASCAR Digital Media

Wade Martin, chief revenue officer, Powdr; president, Powdr Enterprises

Bernadette McGlade, commissioner, Atlantic 10

Lou Melendez, president, Lou Melendez, LLC

Vicky Neumeyer, senior vice president and general counsel, New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Saints

Bob Newman, president, AEG Facilities

Dave Palanzo, SVP, legal and business affairs, Women's Tennis Association

Jeff Price, chief commercial officer, PGA of America

Tom Sadler, president and CEO, AZSTA

Bud Selig, commissioner emeritus, Major League Baseball

Debbie Spander, senior vice president broadcasting and coaching at Wasserman

Bryan Sperber, president, ISM Raceway

Naima Stevenson, deputy general counsel, NCAA

Bill Strickland, principal, Strickland Consulting

Ben Tario, senior associate commissioner, business and legal affairs, Atlantic Coast Conference

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

Senior director of communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


ASU math lecturer named Volunteer of the Year for prison education

December 15, 2017

Every Thursday morning, Arizona State University mathematics lecturer Naala Brewer makes the one-hour plus drive to Florence prison.

“Sometimes I think — oh, I don’t know if I want to drive all the way out to Florence,” Brewer admitted. “But then I get there and by the end of the day I feel more energized. I feel like they really got something out of it.” Naala Brewer Photo by Rhonda Olson Download Full Image

Brewer volunteers as a mathematics instructor for the inmates in Florence prison. She started with a pre-calculus class of 15 men ranging in age from 20 to 70 — all different ethnicities, some with college degrees, some with GEDs, some with neither.

“Teaching the class is really enjoyable,” Brewer said. ”The students volunteer to be in that class, and they have to be on good behavior to qualify, so they are really motivated and so appreciative. They always thank me for coming.”

The ASU Prison Education Initiative has nearly 40 volunteer instructors who teach a variety of subjects including math, English, biology and theater.

Brewer was recently recognized as the Education Services Volunteer of the Year at the Florence Prison Complex.

“Naala Brewer was chosen for this distinguished award because she has shown dedication and diligence to the Education Unit at Florence Complex, the Department of Corrections, our instructional staff, and our students who have shown struggle and enthusiasm (yes, all in the same statements!) for math,” said Laura Metcalfe, correctional education program supervisor (CEPS) at the Arizona State Prison Complex — Florence.

“Most importantly, she has opened a door for a previously unknown desire for learning math that our students have not communicated before. It was not until we opened a pre-calculus class, with student suggestion, that the desire to learn and apply this level of math existed. The class is full and more students want to enroll. This is unheard of in our present environment,” Metcalfe added.

“Nearly three years ago, the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences joined this volunteer program, started by English, since it promotes educational access to a sector of our society which needs it the most,” said school director Al Boggess.

“Naala has eagerly jumped into this program with a zeal that has impressed me. She is highly deserving of this award and I am very proud of her accomplishments.”

Before she started volunteering at the prison, Brewer wasn’t sure how the students would do.

“I hoped that I could introduce them to math, and I didn’t realize they would actually move forward and have dreams of their own, for when they get out and what they’re going to do,” she said.

Brewer describes her inmate students as hardworking and appreciative: “I’ll give them a lot of homework to do sometimes and they get it all done. It’s almost like they don’t want a chance of not being in the class, so they make sure and do every single problem.”

ASU emeritus professor Floyd Downs recently donated hundreds of books to his alma mater. Brewer helped to funnel many of those books to the Florence prison, where the students have put them to good use.

“Some students will come up to me after class and say, when I get out I want to go and get my engineering degree. Or one of the older men said he wants to go back for his master's degree.”

One of her students has a college degree from ASU, and used to be an adviser for 401K accounts.

“He was curious how much he would need to earn to make a living, pay his rent, buy his food and pay utilities, and then also how much he would need to save so it would go all the way through retirement,” Brewer explained. “So he used some of the donated books and came up with a formula and is writing a book for an 8-week financial management course.”

Another student was building three-sided equilateral dice. He noticed that there was always a constant relationship between the perimeter of the triangle and the distance from one of the vertices to the base.

Brewer at first thought it was any triangle. She said to her student, “Let’s try to prove this.”

The student insisted, “It’s an equilateral triangle.”

They worked it through and did the proof. The student, whose last name was Hollenback, completed the proof in front of the class. They were all excited and said, “You should call it the Hollenback constant!”

She encouraged Hollenback to write up his theorem so she could help him submit it to the Southwest Undergraduate Math Conference this spring.

The students are looking forward to the future, and Brewer tries to give them a lot of encouragement.

“I give them little anecdotes … 'Here’s something that I may have struggled with, but I came out on top because I didn’t give up. I kept working and kept practicing.'”

One thing she learned in training — be careful what you promise or say you are going to do, because you really need to follow through. You may be the only person in that student’s life that they have ever known that is dependable and follows their word.

“I try to make sure that if I promise them that I’m going to do something next week, that come hell or high water, I make sure I do that,” Brewer said. “It has made me a better person even in my everyday life. I try to watch what I say. And if I say something, that’s my word and I follow through with it.”

Brewer feels that teaching at the prison has been extremely rewarding, and would encourage others to consider volunteering.

“I actually get more out of it then I put into it. I feel like I give, and then I always get more back after I’ve done it."

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences