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Talking with … Mark Conrad

Interviews | Feb 22, 2019 |

Mark ConradEvery edition of “Talking with…” gives you a glimpse into the life of a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member. This week, we’re speaking with Mark Conrad, associate professor of law and ethics and director of the undergraduate sports business concentration.

Can you explain how the Gabelli School’s sports business concentration sets students up to be successful professionals?
The concentration has a unique advantage over undergraduate sport management programs. Our students graduate with a broad array of business classes and their Gabelli degree is versatile. A student could work in a non-sports-related business and segue into sports in the future; there is no pressure to try to find a job in the sports industry right away. Our grads can be patient…or can get into the field immediately. Indeed some of them have.

Have there been any legal changes in the world of sports over the past year that you think will continue to have a large impact?
There are two: the first is the legalization of sports betting after the Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. NCAA last May. That decision invalidated a federal law that banned states from the legalization of sports gambling. Now eight states have legalized the practice.

The second is the gradual professionalization of college sports. The collegiate model of “student-athletes” has been challenged and the courts have been receptive to the idea that its strict application could result in violations of antitrust law. There is a case coming down that could force the NCAA and athletic conferences to loosen these restrictions. Athletes may be paid in some form in the next few years.

Is there a current legal or ethical debate within sports about which you think the general public should know, or know more?
Yes, and it involves the governance (or lack thereof) of certain athletic governing bodies involved in the Olympic movement. The Nassar scandal opened up the serious lack of ethical governance on the part of USA Gymnastics and the question of oversight by the United States Olympic Committee. This issue is not going away and is not only limited to gymnastics. The body regulating swimming has also been sued based on this lack of oversight involving sexual harassment.

How does social media play a part in the sports industry?
Social media has revolutionized marketing and fan engagement, which is a good thing. However, it has also created additional pressures on athletes, coaches, and owners. Some postings and tweets have been threatening and hate-based. Social media is part of the sports world, as it is in society at large.

What is your biggest piece of advice for students or alumni interested in getting into the sports business?
Learn, learn, learn. Learn about the workings of the business. Treat sports as an industry, not as a fan. I don’t want to hear a student tell me he or she won’t intern for the Red Sox because he or she is a Yankees fan. One has to excise that mentality.


Fun questions

Book you’d like to see adapted for the theater:
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. The novel deals with issues of conformity, middle class, mass production, and the beginnings of the modern consumer society.

If you could play any musical instrument, which would you choose?
I studied piano when I was young and it remains my favorite instrument. If there was a second instrument, it would be the cello.

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato?
None, sorry.

Favorite museum outside of NYC:
Museum of Science and Industry, in Chicago.

Downhill or cross-country skiing?

Best part of 2019 so far:
We completed our taxes.


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