In legal circles, the first Monday in October is an important date on the calendar. It's the day each year that the highest court in our country, the United States Supreme Court, returns to session after the summer recess. An “Opening Day” of sorts, all eyes turn to Washington DC as the High Court debates the important issues at hand.
The first Monday in October may eventually become an important day on the calendar in Baltimore as well.
Recently, the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Association at the Francis King Carey School of Law at the University of Maryland held it's first Fall Symposium on Monday, October 3rd. "The Intersection of Sports and Business in Today's Legal Arena" was the title for this first event.
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! meets Play Ball! could have been another title.
The event brought together some of the best and brightest legal advocates, scholars and media personalities to discuss and debate the top issues in sports business and law today. The list was impressive, in included Stan Kasten the only person ever to hold the title of president of three different major sports simultaneously-NBA Hawks, MLB Braves and NHL Thrashers. Until recently, Kasten was the President of the Washington Nationals. ESPN College Basketball analyst and lawyer Jay Bilas hosted a panel of legal experts that discussed the variety of issues in stadium financing today. This panel included Baltimore’s own Paul Tiburzi who is a graduate of the University's Law School and Managing Partner of DLA Piper's Baltimore Office. Tiburzi presented the background and details of how Baltimore successfully held the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix through the streets of downtown. He correctly pointed out that Baltimore built a new stadium on the streets of the city, of course, needing to take it down just as quickly as it was built.
The lunchtime Keynote address was given by Edwin Durso, Executive Vice President of ESPN. Interestingly, Durso shared a video of the new open to the networks presentation of Monday Night Football, featuring Hank Williams Jr. Durso told the assembled crowd that "this has not been seen before today". Only hours later did ESPN make the decision not to show this new video at the start of the telecast, due to Mr. Williams’s ill-tempered remarks on Fox News that same afternoon. It could turn out that several dozen people in that room may be the only ones to ever see it!
A highlight to the event was Jay Bilas remarks related to the current affairs in college athletics.
Mr. Bilas does not shy away from challenging the current NCAA establishment with regard to their lack of contemporary leadership and relative in-action while conferences and institutions seeming drive themselves right to the edge of the cliff, all the while touting the importance of the "student-athlete" and preserving an aura of amateurism on college campuses.
"NCAA President Mark Emmert commented recently that college athletics is not a business. That theirs is a mission to educate the student-athletes, well, that is like saying that a hospital is not a business, that it exists only to treat patients. We all know this is a business.” Bilas said. While Bilas will not use the term "hypocrisy" with regard to the NCAA and college athletics, he may be the only one who won't.
Could there be a time in the future when the first Monday in October creates as many headlines in Baltimore as it does in Washington DC?
For now, we are in recess, until next year.