Like an athlete who has trained for years, UB’s newly established Center for the Advancement of Sport – a major interdisciplinary initiative spearheaded by the School of Law – is ready for the big time.
The center will be unique – no other university offers anything comparable. The brainchild of Helen “Nellie” Drew ’88, who teaches sports law courses at the law school, the center draws on some of the University at Buffalo’s greatest strengths: the work of faculty in law, education, social work, management, engineering and computer science as well as UB’s Department of Athletics.
Drew, who will direct the center, says the goal is to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and research; give students opportunities to get a foothold in the sports industry through experiential learning; and attract high-quality students and student athletes to the University.
“Nobody has attempted to harness university-wide resources like this,” Drew says, “and we want to make sure our students have rich, hands-on learning experiences and come out of UB absolutely qualified to assume many of the new jobs that are being formed in the sports industry.” As just one example, she cites a coming boom in sports betting, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that authorizes states to offer such betting. That, Drew says, means jobs in such areas as legal policy, regulatory compliance and data analytics.
The Center, to be run out of the School of Law, will focus on three major areas: educational programming, collaborative research and policy initiatives. Two initial projects illustrate the center’s scope.
One is a course, Sports Law in Action, that Drew will teach this spring with Richard M. Tobe ’74, director of upstate revitalization for the State of New York. Working from research in the schools of medicine and public health, students will develop an understanding of best practices in injury prevention and treatment among professional and amateur athletes. Drew anticipates one outcome will be a policy proposal that all New York State high schools be required to have an athletic trainer present. Course collaborators include Dr. David P. Hostler III, a clinical professor of emergency medicine; and Dr. Leslie J. Bisson, clinical professor of orthopedics.
Another possible project, Drew says, would look at the poor regulation of consumer vitamins and supplements – an issue of prime importance to athletes. Collaborators could build on existing UB research into the pharmacological and public health aspects of the problem, generate and analyze data, and eventually develop policy initiatives and educate athletes and others about the efficacy and safety of these compounds.
Kathleen M. Twist, UB’s senior associate athletic director for sports administration, is the liaison to the new center in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. She says that the University’s Division I athletics program is the ideal laboratory for advanced research, such as a recent project in which exercise science researchers equipped some UB athletes with heart monitors.
“This is perfect for the footprint of the University as a major research university,” Twist says of the Center for the Advancement of Sport. “We’re thinking that it’s going to keep pulling in a lot of disciplines.”
She also says UB could become a leader in educating the amateur athletics community on best practices around such issues as nutrition, weight lifting and concussion. “We’d like to see community support for this,” Twist says. “It’s not just contained within our university – we’re doing this also to improve the community. This should be the safest place to play sports in the country, and we can make it that.”
Establishment of the center comes as the School of Law now offers a concentration in sports law – a distinction that will serve as a door-opening credential in the job market.
Law students who elect this concentration will take at least 16 course credits in sports and entertainment law. In addition to survey courses including Sports Law I and II, students can participate in a hands-on mock NHL salary seminar, and can contribute to the online UB Law Sports & Entertainment Forum. Outside the classroom, they learn through experience with externship opportunities at local college athletic departments, including UB’s.