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New ASU Law degree program to provide path from military to sports career

March 26, 2018

As part of its ongoing effort to expand opportunities for military personnel, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is launching a new online degree program specifically for veterans and active-duty service members.

ASU Law’s Sports Law and Business program has enlisted the support of Sun Devil Athletics to create an online Master of Legal Studies degree for former or active members of the U.S. military who aspire to work in the sports industry.

“We are grateful to all who have served, and we are excited to be launching a degree program specifically for people with a military background,” ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said. “This unique program will build on the high-level skills and training these people already possess and prepare them to make a successful transition into the sports world.”

The Veterans Sports Law and Business program will be a 30-credit, yearlong online Master of Legal Studies degree designed to capitalize on the students’ military backgrounds and prepare them for high-demand jobs in the sports industry, such as facilities operations, event planning and security, data and analytics, and ticketing and sales. The program’s creators believe that the typical leadership and discipline of students with military experience, along with their proven abilities to overcome adversity in high-pressure situations, are skills that transfer well to a career in the sports industry.

Glenn Wong, executive director of the Sports Law and Business program, said the idea for the online degree was shaped in part by discussions with Natesh Rao, a retired Navy commander and senior associate athletic director who will spearhead the program for Sun Devil Athletics.

“In our conversations with Natesh, we realized that there is a significant opportunity to impact the lives of veterans in the form of post-service education,” Wong said. “We also learned that many in the military have a particular interest in the sports industry.”

For Rao, the mission of the program is deeply personal. During a 20-year military career, he worked with executives in college and professional athletics, building an impressive resume full of experience, along with a strong network of mentors. He hoped to parlay that into a rewarding career in sports. But the transition from military to sports was difficult, and he struggled to find a job that he was passionate about.

“I met with an executive from an NFL team who said, ‘Hey, your career in the military is great, and we value that. But you’re not going to get a position in a professional organization based on what you did in the military,’” Rao said. “So when I approached Glenn and Sam about this program, we talked about developing something where we can give a foundation of courses and a background to help veterans transition into the sports world.”

Rao knows firsthand that it is not easy for veterans to find positions in sports organizations that are commensurate with the level of experience they bring from the military.

“The chance to pursue a graduate degree that not only prepares veterans for careers in sports but also provides access to industry executives that can serve as mentors will be a game-changer,” he said. “This program will provide veterans with the foundation and credibility to be successful in any sports organization.”

Sam Renaut, assistant director of the Sports Law and Business program, said the program fits in perfectly with ASU’s culture of innovation.

“ASU is so well-known for innovative ways of learning, and ASU Online in particular is moving so quickly to build out all these incredible new methods of delivering content,” he said. “We saw this as a really good opportunity to use curriculum that already exists and cater it specifically to the strengths of veterans.”

Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who served as the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, will be an adviser to the program. He says it will focus specifically on transferring veterans’ existing skills and expertise, helping them develop a post-military career as rewarding as their first.

“For the past 40 years, I've interacted with American service members on a daily basis,” he said. “The skills developed during their service — including unmatched work ethic, attention to detail, and maturity and focus under pressure — pair perfectly with the core competencies required for many positions in the sports industry.”

Breedlove applauded the focus and vision of the program, saying it’s unlike anything he has seen before.

“I look forward to advising this initiative as it seeks to assist our service members to continue their remarkable contributions to American society,” he said.

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