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Former MLB commissioner coming to ASU Law

Selig, who led Major League Baseball for more than two decades, will join Sports Law and Business program

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February 09, 2016

The man who called the shots for Major League Baseball for more than two decades is joining the rotation at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Former MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig has been named the O’Connor Distinguished Professor of Sports in America and will join the Sports Law and Business program, where he will teach and serve as the founding president of the Sports Law and Business Advisory Board. 

Bud Selig

Selig (pictured at left), who has had a second home in the Valley for years, said teaching at ASU after his July 2015 retirement as MLB commissioner was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“One of my daughters went to ASU, and the more I met with (ASU Law Dean) Doug Sylvester and knowing the vision of Michael Crow, the more attractive this all became,” said Selig, who was calling from his home state of Wisconsin.

“Frankly, these are all of the things that appealed to me so this was, I guess, cue the baseball term — a natural.”

Selig said he’s excited to teach Sports Law and Business because it’s a dynamic and growing branch of the law.

“It’s a field that didn’t exist when I first got into the business,” said Selig, who served as acting commissioner in 1992 before being named official commissioner in 1998. “I don’t think any of us understand how big this is going to be, and I really believe ASU is going to be a pioneer in this field.”

Selig sees Phoenix as an emerging baseball town, which would only help ASU’s new program attract students.

“Phoenix is a growing market, a dynamic market and I know there were some people who early on questioned what kind of baseball market it is. I think this year you’re going to see Phoenix emerge as a great market,” Selig said. “I love what the Diamondbacks have done. I’m a big fan of Tony La Russa, and I have a lot of faith in him. And Ken Kendrick is stunning. There’s growth potential in Phoenix for everything.”

At ASU, the new professor will help select two Selig Sports Law and Business Scholars — one from the incoming jurisprudence class and another from the Master of Sports Law and Business or Master of Law.

He will also lead efforts to bring speakers to ASU Law as part of the Bud Selig Speaker Series on Sports in America.

“In my long, 50-something career I’ve met a lot of fascinating people, and depending on the subject, I’ll bring in people who have had experience in this field,” Selig said. “Everybody will not only be surprised by the quality but by how exciting they are.”

ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said Selig’s presence is a major boost for the university and its students.

“Our students will have an invaluable opportunity to tap into the vast experience and knowledge Selig brings to the Sports Law and Business program from his 22-and-a-half years as commissioner,” Sylvester said. “In those years he oversaw and initiated strategic changes that transformed Major League Baseball. In addition, Bud is a natural teacher with years of experience in mentoring students and imparting his knowledge to the next generation of sports leaders.” 

“I don’t think any of us understand how big (Sports Law) is going to be, and I really believe ASU is going to be a pioneer in this field.”
— Bud Selig

During his tenure as commissioner, the MLB expanded the wild-card postseason format, instituted interleague play, implemented instant replay, brokered a labor agreement with the Players’ Association that has resulted in 21 years of labor peace, developed revenue sharing that led to greater competitive balance and crafted the most comprehensive drug-testing policy in professional sports.

Under Selig, baseball rose in popularity, with record-breaking attendance, and with revenue increasing from $1.2 billion in 1992 to a record $9 billion-plus in 2014.

This is Selig’s third assignment as a professor at the university level. He has taught at Marquette University Law School since 2009, and, last fall, he began teaching a course titled, “Baseball and American Society since World War II,” in the history department at the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater. There in 2010, he endowed the Allan H. Selig Chair in Sport and Society in the United States.

Selig said not only will he offer his vast experience to mentor students, but will also be their biggest fan.

“I’ll tell you what I’m going to tell students when I start teaching at ASU,” Selig said. “I’ll say, ‘You have the best education at ASU and now you’re in a great field. Do what you want to do. There is no substitute for hard work … and dream big.’ ”

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