Q&A with a Sports Law Expert – Jo Potuto

Q&A with a Sports Law Expert – Jo Potuto

Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto, @PtsOfSports_Law, holds a chair in Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska and is its Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR).  Potuto presents, writes, consults, and is an expert witness on sports law issues.  She is past chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, served on the NCAA Division I Management Council, and was president of the 1A FAR (FARs at Division I FBS universities).  She was an advisor to the National Conference of Commissioners Athlete Agent Uniform Act and currently is on the ALI’s Members Consultant Group’s Sexual Misconduct on Campus project.  She has authored three books and more than 25 law review articles.

What were the circumstances that caused you to gravitate to sports law?

I grew up in a family that followed professional sports teams in the NY Metropolitan area (Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers).   Our  all-family outings centered on sports – Old Timers Game at Yankee Stadium; a tailgate at a college football game each year.   The sports law course allows me to combine a recreational interest with my teaching and scholarship.   The immediate catalyst was my appointment as Nebraska’s faculty athletic representative (FAR), an NCAA mandated position at all member schools.

Within the sports law field, what are your areas of expertise?

I have expertise in professional, college, and amateur sports.   My special expertise is in all aspects of NCAA operations – structure and organization; infractions; interpretations; waivers; student-athlete reinstatement – as well as sports law questions that involve constitutional protections – first amendment; Title IX.

What is the most significant sports law case that you’ve been involved in?

I have consulted, or been an expert witness, in litigation involving sports agent representation, Title IX, and student-athlete claims.   I have drafted rules for a state racing commission and was an advisor to the National Conference of Commissioners Uniform Athlete Agent Act.  The bulk of my current consulting is with universities and coaches involved in NCAA infractions matters.   I also currently am a member of the Members Consultant Group for the ALI project on Sexual Misconduct on Campus.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a sports law professor?

Ideally, a law class should mesh theory and analysis with real world practical experience.   Ideally a law class should capture a student’s attention and stimulate engagement with the subject.  The most rewarding thing about being a sports law professor is the ease with which these are accomplished.   Sports law also is fun to teach and provides a cornucopia of current examples, ones that are widely published and discussed.

Do you have a pedagogical philosophy when it comes to your academic practice?

I believe students learn best when they are active participants in the learning process and not simply recorders of what a professor says in class.  That said, Sports Law requires a fair amount of lecture as the basic course covers too wide a berth for a professor to engage exclusively in a Socratic Method or problem solving approach.   Sports Law offers a unique opportunity for law students to observe and interact with professionals in the field and to model professional behaviors.  In consequence, I try to have practitioners teach a class in subject areas central to their practice and to spend time with students outside of class.

Do you teach in the fall, spring and/or summer?

I typically teach Sports Law in the fall but on occasion have taught it in the spring.  I also teach several classes in the Oregon Sports Law summer program as well as at other law colleges via skype.

Do you use a text? If so, which one?

I use the Mitten, Davis, Smith, Duru casebook.   I supplement the casebook with the current year’s NCAA Division I Manual as well as the CBAs from a couple of the professional sports leagues (typically MLB and the NBA).