We are pleased to feature our newest Sports Law Brief (#SLBrief) participant, Craig Pintens (@UOPintens), who is a MULS Sports Law Society alumnus. Before his current job as Senior Associate Athletic Director, Marketing & PR, at the University of Oregon, Mr. Pintens, a 2001 MULS Sports Law Certificate graduate, gained valuable experience in the world of college athletics. First, after graduation, Craig worked for one year as a Marketing Assistant for Marquette, subsequently moving to the Coordinator of Athletic Marketing at University of Texas-Pan American in 2002.

In 2004, Craig returned to Marquette as Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing & Sales and, in 2008, was promoted to Associate Athletic for Marketing & Sales. In 2009, Craig worked as Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing at Louisiana State University (LSU). Finally, in 2011, Craig began working in his current role. Additionally, Mr. Pintens served as President of the National Collegiate Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) from 2013 to 2014.

Getting Started

“As an undergrad at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, probably about my junior year, I realized I wanted to be a sports agent. At the time, David Falk was probably the biggest agent, representing Michael Jordan. That’s who I wanted to be – David Falk. My undergraduate degree was in marketing, and I realized I wanted to supplement that with a law degree.  Researching people, David Falk was an attorney and, at the time, a lot of agents were attorneys, so I thought that this would be a great route.

“As I started looking at law schools, obviously the Sports Law Program here at Marquette was second to none and still is. So, that was a pretty easy decision to come here.”

True Value of Law Degree

“If you’re in law school, the old saying is that it trains you to think like a lawyer. And I’m not sure I appreciated that when I was in law school, that was something I didn’t appreciate until recently … When there’s an issue that we have at the University of Oregon, I examine it from every side and all aspects of it because I want to understand it thoroughly before, as a department spokesperson, I am speaking on the topic. I want to know everything about it and know the entire background, and (law school) has helped me tremendously with that.

“But, what law school really [teaches] you more than anything is problem-solving skills. It really helps you think problems through and solve them, and also see potential unforeseen problems that, maybe, you wouldn’t have noticed initially. That’s not just on the media side, that’s in everything that we do at the University of Oregon. So, that’s been a tremendous skill that I’ve carried with me from law school.”

Twitter Deal w/ NFL, Similar Deal Coming to NCAA?

“It’s absolutely coming. ‘Cord cutting’ is real. Now, it depends on which study to read as to whether doomsday is coming tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. But, it’s happening, and it’s happening at a pretty steady pace. The interesting component is what is going to happen to television rights deals, whether it’s nationally or with a (Division-1) conference. With (Oregon) being a member of the Pac-12 Conference, (it has) an agreement with ESPN, Fox Sports, and the Pac-12 Network to broadcast games. In the future, when your deal expires or you have flexibility within that deal to offer some of the ‘cord cutting’ options out there, [those options] are absolutely going to be looked at it because if you’re not, you’re going to be left behind.

“In college athletics, generating revenue and television revenue is paramount in the Power-5 conferences to achieving your revenue goals. For (Oregon), (TV revenue) represents 20 or 25% of our entire budget. Now, the issue with the rights deal is that it has come, sometimes, at the expense of your fans in terms of game times and other things that are important to them. At the end of the day, more than 50% of our revenue comes from ticket sales and donations.”

Maintaining Oregon’s National Brand, Keeping Local Fan Support

“It’s a tough thing to work with because we, for so long, were that little power in the Pacific Northwest. Not even power, we were just a school in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously with the great relationship we have with Nike, we wouldn’t be where we are today as a brand without them. They have done everything to put us on the map and, because of Phil and Penny Knight’s vision and the facilities that they’ve assisted with, obviously everyone has seen the uniforms, that has transformed us and made us into who we are. And we have won at a high level. So you combine all of those things, that’s how we became a national brand in college athletics.

“Our goal, every day, is to expand that brand. We want to be the brand in college athletics, we want to be a global brand. Unfortunately, we can only lay the foundation blocks of that brand and do what we can. … We can’t control the wins and losses, so we have to do everything that we can as if we were an 0-12 football team [and] we didn’t win any basketball games. That’s doomsday to have to think about that, but you have to build your brand as such because, when you are winning at a high level that we have won at, everything hopefully can take off. … We have to capitalize on (that success) and not just from an athletic department standpoint, we need to capitalize on it from a university standpoint.

“There are kids all over the country right now that their only exposure to the University of Oregon is watching a big game, whether it’s basketball or football, or watching the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. Their only exposure to (Oregon) is through television, so our goal is to attract that (viewer) not just as a student-athlete because the odds of that are pretty slim, but attract them as a student who wants to attend the University of Oregon. Everyone talks about being in the front door — we want to make sure that the front porch is spectacular as it can possibly be.”

Ramifications of Paying NCAA Student-Athletes Beyond Cost of Attendance

“It’s an extremely complicated issue, and there are serious side effects that could happen with any change to the current status quo. What’s been talked about a lot is football and men’s basketball. Unfortunately at the University of Oregon we have 500 student-athletes, so we don’t just have a football and men’s basketball program; we’ve got 18 other sports. What’s going to happen to those other sports?

“We are at a very critical juncture in college athletics. What happens in the next five to ten years is going to be pretty telling as to what college athletics is going to look like in the next ten years after that. There are arguments for it, and arguments against it. I don’t have a personal opinion on it, to be honest. Whatever does happen is something that I’m not sure is being reported correctly by the media right now.

“For example, the University of Oregon has 500 student-athletes. The value of a one-year scholarship — if you add up, and this does not include coaches’ or administrative salaries or debt. It only includes the amount of training, student development, treatment, nutrition, and support — that they receive is $127,000. That’s a big number, and that isn’t being reported. The women’s lacrosse player that is on a full scholarship is $127,000 per year. Without a scholarship, it’s just over $80,000 per year.

“Our goal as an athletic department is to graduate the student-athletes and, hopefully, set them up for whatever endeavor they choose post-college. The old NCAA commercial bodes true — our student-athletes are going pro in a field other than sports. For (Oregon), its percentage (of pro athletes) is a little higher, about 7%, and that’s higher than most because of the opportunities that we have with our track program. (Oregon) has the best track program in the country, so (it) runs into the situation with athletes leaving early to pursue a pro track career.  … But, 93% of (its) student-athletes are going pro in something else. Unfortunately, if the ‘Pay for Play’ comes to fruition or some version of it, some athletic departments around the country are going to have to make some tough decisions that are going to affect those other 388 student-athletes.

“The unique thing about it is the reported numbers. For example, (Oregon) operates at a zero-based budget. Every year, we project out what our revenues and expenses are going to be, and it comes out to zero. This past year, we were above it because included in that figure was a capital donation of $95 million to build a (new football) complex. … How schools would be able to (pay the student-athletes above cost of attendance) is going to be difficult for some. Again, as I said earlier, there are going to be difficult decisions to make and, unfortunately, college athletics is going to suffer, and not just in basketball or football.

“The reason for that — the reason the media narrative is what it is — is because the two most popular sports are basketball and football. The track and field writer doesn’t have a voice. The four or five writers that cover college baseball don’t have that big of a voice. You can’t base everything off of social media, but look at the number of followers that the college football or basketball analysts have, or also the writers have, and compare it with someone who covers some of the other sports.

“That’s why the narrative is what it is. They have the biggest voice, and, unfortunately, all of the other voices are getting squashed on by the basketball and football media members.”

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We sincerely thank Craig for taking the time to discuss how he got his start in college athletics, the future of digital media in college athletics, as well as some other very interesting topics. In closing, we wish Craig the best of luck with his future endeavors, and hope to talk to him soon.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the express written consent of the MULS Sports Law Society Blog (the “SLS Blog”). The opinions expressed by guests of the SLS Blog are their own, not ones expressed by the SLS Blog. 

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