I graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1971 and took a job with Shea, Hoyt, Greene, Randall & Meissner. Several years after taking that job I decided to switch firms and I had the opportunity to work with one of the very best real estate lawyers in the State of Wisconsin, Robert Weiss, who I had as a professor at Marquette University Law School and who I admired dearly. Working for Weiss was like obtaining a master’s degree in real estate in a short period of time. While employed at Weiss’ firm, I was called into Dean Robert Boden’s office at Marquette University Law School. When I entered Dean Boden’s office, he offered me a position as an Assistant Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School teaching several real estate courses. Then Associate Dean Charles Mentkowski was my mentor and a good friend who had kept his eye on me during my law school days and after as I began my legal career in real estate. While I wasn’t certain that I had the requisite intellect, qualifications, or experience, I gracefully accepted the job with one condition—that I would be permitted to continue to practice law so that in teaching my students, as I was not only bringing book knowledge, but actual practical experience to the classroom. And so, the journey began and a close, and long, relationship with Marquette University Law School commenced and has continued now for forty-three years.
Several years after beginning my tenure at Marquette, Dean Boden allowed me to attend a conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida about sports agents and the regulation of the sports industry. When I returned from the conference I met with Dean Boden and told him that “the area of sports law will become an extraordinarily important and popular law area in the future and Marquette needs to get ahead of the game by establishing a specialty in sports law.” Subsequent to my attendance at that conference, I taught a course in personal service contracts at the law school, which at the time was the accepted name for a sports law course relating to representing professional athletes in contract negotiations, i.e. – Marquette’s very first sports law course.
However, my vision was to make sports law a specialty or concentration area at Marquette University Law School. With the financial support of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Green Bay Packers, Miller Brewery, the Milwaukee Admirals, the Milwaukee Bucks, and finally the Pettit Family, we had assembled not only the resources, but the personnel to start the National Sports Law Institute (NSLI) in 1989. Without the support of Dean Frank DeGuire, Associate Dean Charles Mentkowski, and Professor James Ghiardi, the NSLI would have never been a reality.
How proud I am of what the NSLI and the Marquette University Law School Sports Law Program has accomplished. Today, we are attracting well-qualified students from all over the United States. Once a local law school, Marquette has now become a national law school. In Matt Mitten and Paul Anderson we have two giants in sports law education. The Sports Law Program through its professors, course offerings, research, internships, and law review is unparalleled in United States Law Schools. And now its alumni have made, and continue to make, impacts in the sports law field in the form of sports related jobs.
Marquette University Law School has the best sports law program of any United States Law School.
How honored I was that my law school honored me on the Twenty-fifth (25th) Anniversary of the establishment of the National Sports Law Institute with the Master of the Game Award. The Master of the Game Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to the sports industry and who exemplifies the highest level of professionalism in his or her field. Past recipients of the Award are: Al McGuire (1992), Bart Starr (1994), Hank Aaron (1995), Bob Harlan (1997), Allan H. “Bud” Selig (2000), Governor Tommy G. Thompson (2001), Donna de Varona (2003), Dr. Cedric Dempsey (2004), Michael Conley (2007), The Family of Joe and Bernice Tierney (2009), and David Howman (2012). The Award is so meaningful to me, but more importantly the Award signifies and recognizes the many students who have matriculated the Sports Law Program and who I have taught or mentored. They have made that program great. I wanted to share the acceptance speech I gave on October 17, 2014 at the ceremony for the Master of the Game Award. What follows is my acceptance speech for the Master of the Game Award as printed in Volume 26, Issue 1 of the Marquette Sports Law Journal:
I am so humbled to be honored by an institution where I have spent a better part of my life working and supporting. I am also so honored to be joining my dear friend, Al McGuire, who was the first Master of the Game honoree, as part of this exclusive club.
While at the University of Wisconsin, I was a Carnegie Scholar and worked in the offices of Attorney General Bronson La Follette. The summer before my graduation, La Follette assigned me to work under the supervision of Attorney Charles Mentkowski in Milwaukee. Little did I know that a long term relationship with Marquette University Law School would thereafter ensue.
Charles Mentkowski was soon to become the Associate Dean of the Law School. The principles by which I lead my life today are some of the fundamental teachings I learned from Charles Mentkowski. Let me share them with you:
- Differences make all the difference;
- Continued learning is continued growth;
- It’s not what you have done, it’s what you have done for others;
- Don’t worry about failure, worry about the chance you miss when you don’t even try; and
- Support the Law School and Marquette University.
I think about Charles Mentkowski every day of my life and I am so honored to have in attendance this evening Charles Mentkowski’s wife, Dr. Marcia Mentkowski.
I have been so fortunate during my career to have had extraordinary sports law industry experiences ranging from creating a major collegiate conference and a foreign basketball league, representing some of the power coaches in college sports, and numerous sports facility financial and development experiences.
But with all those opportunities, nothing even slightly compares with my relationship with Marquette University Law School. That relationship has shaped my life and my values.
I had a vision, that “Sports Law” could become an academic specialty area that would be pursued and become popular among law students in American law schools.
Charles Mentkowski, Frank DeGuire, James Ghiardi, and Father DiUlio grasped the vision and believed in it, and twenty-five years ago the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School was created. Dean DeGuire tirelessly took that dream to its ultimate fruition and helped to garner financial support from the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Milwaukee Admirals, the Green Bay Packers, and Miller Brewery. And Jim Gray was an early dedicated champion, and an NSLI leader. Thanks to Paul Anderson, David Stegeman, Bill Miller, John Dodds, John Drana, Greg Heller, Peter Faust, Patty Baker, and Mark Brault – whose enthusiastic dedication and support helped to grow this program.
When I first accepted a position as a professor at Marquette University Law School, I told Dean Boden that I would love to teach, but that I would not forgo a career in the practice of law. Being a practitioner would only make me a better teacher. I have stayed the course and my philosophy about legal education has gotten me to my 42nd year. That philosophy is simple:
- Sift and winnow for the truth;
- Learning is living;
- No holds barred – everything is fair game;
- Take knowledge and put it to practical use; and
- If you haven’t experienced it then how can you teach it.
Law students from America’s best colleges and universities now choose Marquette Law School because of the preeminence of its Sports Law Program.
Sports Law requires the ultimate general practitioner and at Marquette University Law School students are prepared brilliantly for that challenge.
The most important part of my career has been the opportunity to light up bright minds and to utilize learning to transform mirrors into windows. It is the students that I have worked with who are truly deserving of this award. Some of those students have participated in the research and writing of articles that have become seminal works in the field. I am honored to introduce some of them to you today:
- Ashley Fale – Clawback Clauses;
- Steven Gruber – You Get Hired to Get Fired;
- Bryan Ward – Non-Relocation Agreements in MLB;
- Jay Smith – Assistant Coaches Contracts;
- Dennis Hughes – Sports.comm, It Takes a Village to Build a Sports Facility;
- Tim Granitz – Ten Years Later: Miller Park and Real Estate Development; and
- Ryan Session – Summer Camps.
Thank you to all of the law students over the years who have served as my interns, footnoters, researchers, and editors. Tonight is a celebration of your accomplishments.
As exemplified by these students, at Marquette the pursuit of excellence is ever present. We strive for excellence because excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude, and a habit. It comes readily if you:
- Care more than others think is wise;
- Risk more than others think is safe;
- Dream more than others think is practical, and
- Expect more than others think is possible.
Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way. The NSLI’s Master of the Game Award is a salute to excellence and for that I am deeply honored.
Today the National Sports Law Institute and the Marquette law program are in good hands. I respect and admire the leadership, vision and continued support of Dean Joseph Kearney. Professors Matt Mitten and Paul Anderson are rock solid and have taken this program to new heights. The future is only bright.
As a final note, I have been blessed with a loving and supportive family. My wife, Bev, has been my best partner, my greatest advocate, and my silent voice. Thank you for everything you have done for me and for our family. I also welcome my daughter, Kari Altman, and her husband – Michael, along with my grandsons, Jack and Justin. I also welcome my son, Dr. Steven Greenberg, and his wife – Jodi, and my precious twin granddaughters, Sadie and Shelly, who are at home. I have also been lucky enough to have trusty executive assistants that have made me look good, please welcome Margaret Schmalfelt and Danelle Welzig.
I look forward to hearing of the NSLI’s future successes and I thank you for this incomparable honor.