I recently had the opportunity to participate in a premier event among law students in sports law at Tulane University—the Tulane Pro Football Negotiation Competition. It was a great “hands-on” experience where students who are interested in breaking into the sports industry using their law degree negotiate contracts between NFL Players and NFL Teams. The competition not only included a hands-on experience, but it also provided a networking opportunity that one would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else with an “all-star list of judges” who work within the National Football League or with agencies that represent players.
To start off, I’ll give you some background on Tulane and its relationship with sports law. Tulane Law is obviously a great law school, but it is also one of the most (if not, the most) recognized and sought after law schools in the country when it comes to preparing for a legal career in sports. Not only does Tulane attract students from all over the country whose main goal is to have a career within professional sports, but the university also has a great head of their sports law department in Professor Gabe Feldman (interview with him to follow shortly).
My law school has not sent a team to this competition before to my knowledge, and after hearing about it from a friend at Tulane law, I knew I had to partake. A couple of my friends in the Memphis Sports & Entertainment Law Society and I formed our negotiation team to represent the University of Memphis Law School. There were 29 teams that competed from across the country. Tulane Law sends each team competition materials including situations with real players and teams that are coming up on a renegotiation of their contracts. Situations/Cases included Malcolm Butler/New England Patriots, DeAndre Hopkins/Houston Texans, and Kawann Short/Carolina Panthers—all of whom are coming up on either contract extensions or free agency. The later rounds included Martellus Bennett/New England Patriots and a few others. I list these situations just to give you an idea of the types of players/teams that are being worked with.
In preparation, we did research on statistics of other players holding the same positions, the salary caps of each team, and the payout to players that are similar in comparison—this research was all to find a good starting point for negotiations. It is also useful, but not required, to understand the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Each team had certain objectives that needed to be fulfilled in order to score points (i.e. certain amount of Guaranteed Money or saving a certain amount of space in the Salary Cap). Teams were also judged based on negotiation tactics and whether or not the two sides could come to a deal.
The competition consists of three days of activities from a “kickoff” dinner/networking event with a speaker (this year the speaker was Marc Trestman—former head coach of the Chicago Bears) to the actual competition and other social events so that you can meet other law students and the judges of the competition.
All of the research and negotiations truly provided an experience unlike any other offered in the country—virtually a real-life, hands-on experience. From the judges being agents and front office guys who work with NFL teams and contracts in their careers to the networking with other students who are also trying to do the same with their lives, this competition has it all. Not to mention, New Orleans is a great city to explore in your down time.
I highly recommend the Tulane Pro Football Negotiation Competition to all who are looking to gain some experience and network with professionals in the field. If your law school has a team, join it. If not, take initiative and get a team going yourself… I can almost guarantee there will be someone in your law school who will be glad to go spend a week in NOLA and negotiate NFL contracts—I mean really, what could be better?
Just to note, winners of the 2017 competition included: Villanova Law (Champion), and Denver Law (Runner-Up).
I hope this post inspires you to participate in the event next year or in the years to come. If you have any questions regarding my experience or the competition, please feel free to send me an email or comment.
Also, for more information and sports law news, give Tulane Sports Law (@TulaneSportsLaw) and Gabe Feldman (@SportsLawGuy) a follow on Twitter.
Thank you for reading and God Bless!
– Dale Hutcherson