Bob Wallace, the chair of Thompson Coburn’s sports law group, has launched a podcast focused on sports law and business issues. After the Buzzer aims to provide “smart, probative discussions about issues that impact sports or that sports impacts,” according to the firm.
“We hope to discuss topics and issues beyond the score, beyond the winners and losers, beyond who gets hired and fired,” said Wallace. “I want to talk about the how’s, the why’s, the when’s, and the because’s.”
How to listen: After the Buzzer is available on iTunes and Stitcher. To receive email updates when new episodes are posted, visit the subscription center (https://www.thompsoncoburn.com/subscribe) and sign up for “Sports Law” updates. The audio for each episode is also posted to our website.
In Bob’s first two episodes, he talks to former attorneys who now serve as executives of major sports organizations.
- Josh Whitman, the Director of Athletics for the University of Illinois, talked about why he pursued a law degree after his NFL career and why it’s such a strong resource to draw from as an athletic director of a Power Five university.
- Mike Tannenbaum, Executive Vice President of Football Operations of the Miami Dolphins, looked back at his time under Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells and talked about his approach to consensus decision-making in an NFL front office.
Wallace, who has spent more than 35 years in the national sports and business arenas, said he was inspired to launch the podcast after thinking back on all the great people he’s met in the sporting world.
“There are so many smart, interesting, thoughtful people involved with pro sports and college athletics,” he said. “In talking with them, I’ve often thought to myself, ‘I wish I could share this conversation with other people!’ This podcast, After the Buzzer, is my attempt to do that.”
Whitman Talks Collegiate Athletics
The firm provided an excerpt of Wallace’s first podcast with Josh Whitman, the Director of Athletics for the University of Illinois.
Whitman was hired by the University of Illinois in 2016. He is a proud U of I alum and football player and has both his bachelor’s degree in Finance and law degree from Illinois. He has practiced law in DC, clerked for Judge Michael Kanne in U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and played pro football. He started his collegiate athletic administration career also at Illinois, before he moved onto the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and eventually to Washington University in St. Louis before returning to his alma mater.
Some highlights from Bob Wallace’s discussion with Whitman:
On why he pursued a law degree after his NFL career and why it’s a strong resource to draw from as an athletic director:
“At the time, the law was just becoming more and more commonplace among major college athletic directors. it seemed to me that as the business evolves, as the complexities increase, as the risk magnified, that having that skill set would serve someone sitting in this chair well, and I’ve been pleased that I was right.”
On the similarities between student athletes at Division 1 schools vs. a Division 3 schools:
“Whether you’re talking about UW La Crosse, Wash U or the University of Illinois, it doesn’t matter how many people are cheering them when the lights go on. They’re still 18 to 22-years-old. They’re learning how to be adults. They’re dealing with family issues. They’re just struggling to learn about themselves and make good choices every day and put themselves in a position to be successful when their time in college is over.”
On his vision for the Illinois athletic program:
“I want us to be the model athletic program across the country for a place that is able to pursue athletic, academic and personal excellence in equal pieces for all of its student athletes. I think our mission statement says it best: unify, develop, inspire, achieve.”
The full interview can be found here: https://www.thompsoncoburn.com/insights/publications/item/2018-09-10/episode-1-josh-whitman-of-the-university-of-illinois
Tannenbaum Talks Professional Athletics
The firm provided an excerpt of Wallace’s second podcast with Mike Tannenbaum, Executive Vice President of Football Operations of the Miami Dolphins.
Across 20 years of NFL experience with the New Orleans Saints, the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets, Tannenbaum has worked alongside some coaching giants of the current NFL era. Since joining the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and becoming vice president of football operations in 2015, Tannenbaum has hired a highly regarded general manager and an equally highly regarded head coach. In 2016, the Dolphins went 10 and 6 and made the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
Tannenbaum is a graduate of Tulane Law School and a member of the board of directors of the Sports Lawyers Association.
Some highlights of Wallace’s conversation with Tannenbaum:
On what it was like working with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells:
“Just to be around him every day for four years is something that I’ll cherish forever. He certainly had standards, and it wasn’t always easy. But it was always meaningful. One minute he could be yelling at you deservedly, and the next minute he could be praising you.
“I never could have become a GM without just being around him every day and learning those lessons about evaluating players, building a roster, who to pay, how much to pay. How to manage people, how to give people feedback. How to tell people things they don’t want to hear.”
On the surprising opportunities for consensus decision-making in an NFL front office:
“If there are disagreements, either let’s watch more film or let’s determine what the goal is. Because we have objectives and we know what we want this organization to look like and the types of players we need. And when we do that, invariably that decision will bubble to the top and we can get to consensus pretty quick.”
On contract negotiations in the era of the salary cap, and why flexibility is paramount:
“In this day and age your plan has to be firmly etched in pencil because things are going to happen. You think things are going to go one way and then, for whatever reason, they change. You have to stand for something and have a good sense of where you want to go. But you also have to be realistic because life gets in the way and things change and players get more in some situations and less in others. You just have to be open minded.”
For the full podcast with Tannenbaum, visit https://www.thompsoncoburn.com/insights/publications/item/2018-09-18/episode-2-mike-tannenbaum-of-the-miami-dolphins