Summer sports law program looks to grow into national recognition

University of Oregon creates a Sports Law pilot program to up enrollment this summer. (Dominic Allen/Emerald)

University of Oregon creates a Sports Law pilot program to up enrollment this summer. (Dominic Allen/Emerald)

Posted by Troy Brynelson on Wednesday, Apr. 16 at 10:00 am.

This summer the University of Oregon Law School will start a new five week seminar focusing on sports, while reeling in some big names from the industry help grow the stature of the UO Law School.

Rob Illig, an associate professor at the law school, is spearheading the program called the Oregon Sports Law Summer Institute. It will begin July 6 and cost $10,000 for both in and out-of-state students and be worth six credits.

The institute hopes to leverage the growing prominence of  the UO Law School to lure students from top tier law schools who are struggling to find summertime work. Currently there are only two UO students enrolled and 13 from other schools including Michigan and UCLA.

Eugene is a natural fit because of the city’s open-air reputation and ascending sports culture, as both the home of the Ducks and the moniker of “Track Town, USA,” Illig said.

“I like to say that the reason we care about the environment is so that we can strap on our Nikes and take a run,” Illig said. “It creates a sense that we’re about health and harmony, if you will.”

The new seminar hopes to buoy the law school in the face of dwindling enrollment levels since 2008. Oregon Law is not alone, law schools across the country have been facing the same trend according to the Law School Admission Council, which governs admissions into law schools around the country. They say that enrollment is down nationwide nearly 25 percent.

“When you’re running downhill, you can’t pass anybody because everyone’s running downhill and it’s easy,” Illig said. “It’s when you’re running uphill is when you make a surge and you find out who is a pretender and who is for real. We’re uphill right now.”

One goal is to mimic the success of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center in the Lundquist College of Business. Illig has said that his faraway aspiration would be for Oregon to become a capital of sports law, much like the Warsaw Center, which grew from a pilot program started in 1993. Today the Warsaw Center has become a hotspot for students interested in sports business, and the program has churned out employees for regional powerhouses like Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear.

“The real traction came when we were able to get a concentration at the undergraduate level and the MBA program to embrace the sports area,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. “Since then it’s been one of the real flagships of the business school.”

The current slate of lecturers at this summer’s conference includes professors from UO, in addition to professors from popular law programs with their own sports focuses — such as Tulane and Wake Forest. Each professor will teach for one week, Illig said.

Swangard hopes the two programs — and any program incorporating sports into its curricula — will benefit the university as a whole.

“My hope is that as the law school finds its realm of Sports Law and builds its cadre of good professors that there will be natural synergies between us,” Swangard said. “Bottom line, I’m excited whenever I hear a program bring sports into its academic domain.”


  • Order_of_the_Coitus

    DO NOT go to law school!!!! Law school is a very, very expensive joke. And only about 1/2 of graduates are getting jobs law jobs. Many end up at Starbuck’s. Seriously. Then there are close to $2,000/month in loan payments. That kind of debt is crippling!!!!