Teaching Graduate Sport Law Using Case Studies and Sports Litigation Alert

Aug 14, 2009

Ryan M. Rodenberg
At the graduate level, there is a proverbial fork in the road for sport law courses. One fork in the road leads to the law school, where professors teach sport law using a casebook and the Socratic Method. The other fork in the road leads to graduate sport management programs housed in kinesiology, education, or business schools. Although a small number of schools have formal joint J.D./M.S. degree programs, the overwhelming majority of students in graduate sport management programs are not law students. As a result, such students have not been exposed to law school-focused casebooks or the Socratic Method. Sport law casebooks intended for law students are inappropriate for sport law courses taught in graduate sport management programs. However, there are a number of excellent textbooks on the market aimed towards non-law students. Examples include Cotton and Wolohan’s Law for Recreation and Sport Managers, Epstein’s Sports Law, Sharp, Moorman, and Claussen’s Sport Law: A Managerial Approach, and Spengler, Anderson, Connaughton, and Baker’s Introduction to Sport Law. The purpose of this essay is to offer the teaching model I employ for a sport law course outside the confines of a law school using Pittman, Spengler, and Young’s Case Studies in Sport Law and Sports Litigation Alert as supplements to the textbook of my choice.
Case Studies in Sport Law is different than the aforementioned textbooks. Although organized topically, the book primarily contains mildly redacted judicial opinions and “snapshot” summaries of legal doctrine in each area. Also included are online supplements with study guides and links to unedited versions of each case. Some material is interactive. Sports Litigation Report is a bi-monthly publication that contains timely summaries of existing lawsuits, op-eds pertaining to current controversies, and news updates regarding sport-related legal issues in academia and industry.
In a 2001 Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport article, Indiana University professor Sarah Young found that sport law is one of eight core content areas at the graduate sport management program level. Dr. Young’s comprehensive content analysis revealed that the following ten areas of sport law were included: (i) administrative/statutory law; (ii) constitutional law; (iii) contract law; (iv) crowd control and security; (v) the legal system; (vi) products liability; (vii) risk management; (viii) tort law; (ix) antitrust/labor law; and (x) legal research. Dr. Young’s analysis also gleaned the fact that most of the course syllabi used exams as the primary evaluative tool, with a case analysis being the most popular type of assignment at the graduate level.
My teaching model is consistent with Dr. Young’s findings. Each of the aforementioned textbooks cover all or almost all of the discrete legal topics commonly found in sport law courses. My lectures track the outline of the selected text and quizzes and exams comprise the majority of the graded component of the course. I also use Case Studies in Sport Law and Sports Litigation Alert in specific (and graded) ways as supplements to the course. First, each student is required to select two published opinions from Case Studies in Sport Law and then write a 1,000 word case brief for each published decision. To encourage collaborative learning with one’s peers, each case brief is then distributed among fellow students. Thereafter, each student takes part in a verbal Q & A regarding both cases, with questions posed by me and other students. In other words, the student “defends” his/her case briefs in front of class. The “peer effects” inherent in the assignment result in work that is of a higher quality than if I were the only one to read the case briefs. Taken together, the case briefs and oral defense thereof comprise 25% of the graded part of the class.
Second, for the first 5-15 minutes of every class (assuming the class meets twice a week), students are given the opportunity to opine regarding cases and issues covered in the most recent issue of Sports Litigation Alert. If volunteers are lacking, I pick names out of a hat as a way to (artificially) encourage classroom participation. Using a soft and gentle version of the Socratic Method, I challenge students to defend their position and solicit others to chime in on contentious and debatable cases summarized in Sports Litigation Alert. Leading off each class with such a discussion has helped engage students. Further, as a graded component of the course (15%), I’ve found the quality of discourse to be relatively good, as the students are well-versed on the cases prior to class.
Infusing traditional textbook-derived lectures and exams with supplements in the form of Case Studies in Sport Law and Sports Litigation Alert results in a hybrid teaching model that: (i) employs the highly effective, yet modified, Socratic Method when discussing legal opinions; (ii) effectively preserves “traditional” instruction appropriate for a graduate-level course; and (iii) encourages students to actively learn using a unique method they will probably not encounter outside of the law school context.
Works Cited
Cotton, D.J. & Wolohan, J.T. (2006). Law for Recreation and Sport Managers. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
Epstein, A. (2003). Sports Law. Clifton Park, NY: West Legal Studies.
Pittman, A.T., Spengler, J.O. & Young, S.J. (2008). Case Studies in Sport Law. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Sharp, L.A., Moorman, A.J. & Claussen, C.L. (2007). Sport Law: A Managerial Approach. Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway Publishers.
Spengler, J.O., Anderson, P.M., Connaughton, D.P. & Baker, T.A. (2009). Introduction to Sport Law. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Young, S.J. (2001). A Content Analysis of Legal Aspects Courses in Sport Management. Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport, 11, 225.
Ryan M. Rodenberg, JD/ABD teaches sport law at Indiana University. He may be contacted at rmrodenb@indiana.edu. © Ryan M. Rodenberg, 2009.


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