We are extremely pleased to welcome our next #SLBrief guest, Mr. Brent Moberg (L ’04), who currently serves as the Director of Compliance for the University of Notre Dame. Interestingly enough, Brent originally enrolled in medical school before ultimately deciding that law school, and specifically the Marquette University Law School (MULS) Sports Law Program, was his best career option. Altogether, Brent has provided legal analyses and opinions on several different sports law areas:(1) Football Play Scripts: A Potential Pitfall for Federal Copyright Law? (2004); (2) Recent Developments in Sports Law (2004); and (3) Navigating the Public Relations Minefield: Mutual Protection Through Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in College Coaching Contracts (2006).
Finally, and most importantly, Brent was honored this past Friday, April 29, 2016, at the National Sports Law Institute Banquet with the Charles Mentowski Sports Law Alumnus of the Year Award. “It is quite, quite humbling,” Mr. Moberg told the MULS Sports Law Society Blog. “I happened to be in Milwaukee in July (2015) with my wife and had the opportunity to go to lunch with Professor (Paul) Anderson, Professor Bill Miller, and MU Director of Compliance Jamie McGaver to Miss Katie’s Diner. As we were standing in front of the Al McGuire Center, Paul just told me that I was the winner. Honestly, I really don’t know too much more about how the process worked out, but that was kind of a shock to me.”
Why Law Degree and MBA in Sports Business Made Sense
“As I got into the (Sports Law) Program a little bit and started to think about working in intercollegiate athletics, I needed a business background, particularly if I wanted to pursue a path to become an athletic director. I did not have any business background whatsoever from undergrad. With that in mind, the thought was to get a job in intercollegiate athletics and pursue an MBA while I was working. That being said, the JD-MBA Program existed at Marquette, but, during the spring of my 2L year, Professor Anderson did an informational session in the old law school about the brand new Sports Business MBA possibility. That summer between my 2L year and 3L year and then summer and winter following, I did it all so I believe that I’m the first graduate of the Sports Business MBA Program. It was just a stroke of, in many ways, being in the right place at the right time.”
Jumping from Northern Illinois to Notre Dame
“(The differences) were slight, but I think this goes back earlier than Northern Illinois (NIU) for me, to Division III doing the sports law internship at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with their athletic director at the time, Shawn Eichorst, a Marquette Sports Law grad. Working with Shawn in Division III was a great experience because … we could understand certainly the discrepancies in budgets and the bright lights, but working with Shawn was a mentality that, ‘These are the things that I want to do.’ His vision and his model was very much a Division I BCS model.
“Once he formulated that vision, he scaled back individual plans and individual projects based on resources knowing that you can’t build a fancy football or baseball field or whatever situation might be, and knowing that there are certain things that you aren’t going to be able to do. So that laid the groundwork for me. Working at Marquette in the Compliance Office, I was around when they were transitioning from Conference USA to the Big East … so at least I had been around the transition there from a mid major to, at that time, the premier college basketball in the country.”
“Moving to NIU, its Athletic Director Jim Phillips was, again, another visionary. Jim had come to NIU from Notre Dame (ND) previously as a Senior Associate AD. His vision was, ‘Yes, we’re at the MAC level, but I’m building a new building that’s going to be my Academics Performance Center. It’s going to house my football offices, and it’s going to house my football weight room. I’m going to build this off of the grand vision of how would I have done this at ND … and not exclusively ND, other BCS schools.’ … So, Jim’s vision was very much the same (compared to Shawn’s vision). Jim is now at Northwestern as AD and is obviously very, very successful.
“Working within those types of vision, as I started to look into compliance during law school and coming out of ND as an undergrad, I always thought that being at the Division I BCS level would be fit. Now I think a lot of people think that … for some it is, for some it isn’t, and some assume that’s the only way to do it. In my case, I kind of thought that way and was lucky enough that, even when I wasn’t working at the BCS level, I was working with people that brought that level of thinking to other places.
“For me, the transition (from NIU to ND) was not large. There are certainly massive differences. Some of it is resource-related but, realistically, more often than not it’s been … culture and relationship-related. And what I mean by that is I did not work for a hockey program before, for example. Hockey has its own culture, just as lacrosse does and certainly run down a whole list of sports. I had to learn wrestling while I was at NIU, and I have never been around wrestling and gymnastics that have their own culture. … Learning all those sorts of different cultures is going to happen from place to place. There’s one thing that was different — we get more attention from the outside when it comes to random calls from people, sometimes with questions … as if we’re the NCAA. I never had that happen when I was at NIU. I figure that probably happens at a lot of the bigger schools. … There are more super fan scenarios out there that you wouldn’t deal with at the other places.”
“(It was the product) of again being at the right place at the right time. Bill Carr is a former AD at several places and Gerald O’Dell, who works heavily with Bill, has also been AD at multiple places. Bill Carr is actually a good friend of (Marquette Sports Law Professor) Marty Greenberg. … While I was at Northern Illinois, the then-Assistant AD for Compliance and I applied for [that] same job, and he got the job. But, things went so well in the interview that Jim Phillips said … ‘I’m going to create a second position for you.’
“Getting close with Ed Pasque, Ed came into Northern Illinois having been doing the consulting with CarrSports. Fast forward a little bit to a year or nine months before I left NIU, Ed moved on from NIU to become Associate Commissioner of the Atlantic-10 (A-10) Conference. When that happened, a CarrSports project came up and they reached out to Ed to see if they could do it. At that time with the new job starting at the A-10, Ed was concerned that he might be conflicted out and not be able to do it. … Bill asked Ed, ‘If you can’t, do you have any recommendations?’
“It turns out that Ed was conflicted out. I got my first project with CarrSports at the time doing a strategic visibility study at University of Richmond. I flew to Richmond, (Virginia), met Bill at the athletic department as we were interviewing different people on campus, and, as it turns out while we are sitting in the room, Bill’s phone rang and it was Marty Greenberg. Totally unrelated to anything, no connection whatsoever. It was at lunch that we were talking about Marquette … and Bill asked if I knew Marty Greenberg. I told him, ‘Yes, I’ve won a couple of awards with his name on it and took some classes with him.’ That was a pure coincidence after the fact, but it’s been an amazing relationship (with CarrSports).”
“I would not call myself the best networker out there. I have some very strong people in my network, but I would also say that I didn’t do any (networking) before law school. Certainly I had heard about it, and Notre Dame, in some way, was a wasted opportunity in undergrad because I could have certainly built quite a network. But, it was coming to Marquette that started it and has been indispensable to my career. (My network) continues to grow within Marquette graduates across the country and throughout our league depending on the sport, [and] coaches and administrators as they move around.
“Now, what’s been interesting is how that’s changed. The social media aspect, to me, is still baffling; I don’t fully get it. LinkedIn is an example. I’m on LinkedIn, but there’s still something very strange to me about someone going through LinkedIn, whether they are a compliance professional, aspiring professional or whatever it is, and sending an invite to someone they’ve never met with a standard message. There are a lot of people that equate that with networking, and I don’t necessarily see it that way (because) I don’t find it as valuable.
“I certainly try to connect through (LinkedIn) with people I know or people I’ve worked with. And certainly there are some second- and third-degree connections that do happen. … I worry that people are losing the real power of networking.”
Paying Student-Athletes Above Cost of Attendance
“There is recognition that there are several issues that are important in the realm of student-athlete welfare, and I think that the changes to the (NCAA) governance structure, particularly creating the autonomy structure in Division I and allowing the benefits rule to be part of that, is recognition that there are some things that we need to be able to get done that might affect the bigger schools differently than other schools. [W]e just need a mechanism to get it done.
“‘What does this mean for paying student-athletes?’ In that case, there’s a very good interview that the President of (Notre Dame), Father John Jenkins, gave to the New York Times … that laid out the very clear case for why (Notre Dame) thinks the amateurism model — truly amateur and not paying student-athletes — is the right model for collegiate athletics versus the alternative. I think that case was very clear and convincing. It has been embraced very widely among schools in the industry.
“I do have confidence that if it ever reached a point that there was a potential for a split between some sort of paid system that looked somewhat more like a minor league (system), there are far more schools on the side of the truly student-athlete model that Father Jenkins articulated. In the course of the day, that model is the one that I believe would win out in the marketplace.”
We congratulate Brent on his Sports Law Alumnus of the Year Award and sincerely thank him for discussing his law school journey, his career in compliance, as well as several interesting topics with us. In closing, we wish Brent the best of luck in his future endeavors and hope to talk with him again soon.
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