Colleges Sports Business

Utility In A Sports Management Masters Degree

I probably get fielded a question like this through email atleast three times a week: What is the best route to take if I plan on negotiating contracts and being a knowledgeable sports agent in future; getting my masters in sports management or obtaining a law degree?

My response is usually along the lines of, There really is no “right” route. Law school will teach you the most about negotiation and contracts. A masters in sports management will probably do less, but may prove to be rewarding. I obviously hold slight bias as a current law student, but from what I have heard and read, obtaining a J.D. was more valuable than gaining a masters in sports management as long as one was willing to put in the three years of time to receive the degree and countless hours in the library to prevent failing out.

A new story is making me reconsider the weakness of obtaining a masters in sports management. In fact, the most valuable masters degrees in sports management may be coming from schools that you would not at first consider when applying for graduate school. San Diego State University, Arizona State University, Ohio University, and University of Oregon have sports management masters programs that are among the top in the United States. SDSU has a strong relationship with the San Diego Padres and Arizona State with the Phoenix Suns. Then there is always top rated Wharton at University of Pennsylvania, where one has a chance of being taught by a premier sports business professor, Ken Shropshire.

If law school is not for you, but you want a post graduate degree (possibly so that you can be a certified NFLPA agent), signing up to be a sports management masters program student may not be such a bad idea. Do your research and learn which program is best for your future goals.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

22 replies on “Utility In A Sports Management Masters Degree”

My next question would be whether to concentrate in sports law or simply corporate law?

Hi Jasmine. Concentrating on sports law in law school is a misconception held by many people who are aspiring to become agents or break into the sports industry. Usually, there is only one course to take actually named sports law, unless the school offers a sports law certificate/minor.

Sports law is really just a combination of individual areas within the law. For example, the course is usually comprised of antitrust, intellectual property, contracts, labor, etc. Sports law takes an in-depth look at these areas as they cut across the world of sports. What I would recommend is that you focus on contracts, labor law, intellectual property, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Take sports law as an added bonus to re-emphasize these other subjects.

I always tell aspiring attorneys that you don’t want to narrow your focus too much and lock yourself into a niche area. As far as I’m concerned, the concentration doesn’t really mean much to people in the field. It would almost be equal to telling a law firm that you majored in pre-law as an undergraduate.

Corporate law is a nice addition(e.g. business associations, mergers and acquisitions, etc.), but it doesn’t have too much relevance to athlete representation.

At the end of the day, a sports management degree won’t be worth much in my opinion, unless you have some solid connections.

Nailing your colors to the post much Matthew?

Let me guess you’re a law shool graduate without a sports law concentration?

Think it’s very naive to say such and such degrees aren’t worth much.

Look at the most successful* agent in the world, Pini Zahavi. Did exactly how much college, let alone law school?

*Down th interpretation, he’s certainly the richest sports agent and probably the most powerful to boot.

TP3, the post isn’t meant to insult anybody. Of course, this is just my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth. I took sports law and all the courses I recommended. As an attorney in the labor and entertainment field, my selection of courses has boded well for me. I’m not trying to denigrate anybody’s degree or lack thereof. I’m just saying that it is foolish to lock yourself in a corner, when the field is very competitive.

There is no such thing as “a sports law concentration.” Sports Law is generally ONE class out of a few dozen that you take during law school (it’s also one of the most challenging courses; antitrust law is VERY convoluted).

As for Pini Zahavi, he got his start at a newspaper and networked his way along. Not sure if he’s the richest though. Source?

Actually, some schools do have a “sports law concentration” – see: Tulane/Marquette. At my law school, you are lucky if the course schedule offers a Sports Seminar class once every five years. Then, you are extremely lucky if you get one of the 15 spots saved for enrollment (pretty much requiring you to be a 3L with an exorbitant amount of credits). That’s it. One Sports Law seminar. You do not go to law school to be taught “how to become a sports agent”. You go to law school to become a more informed person in regards to the law, which in turn will make you a more knowledgeable agent.

Glad someone has heard of Pini around here. Thought it was mainly American Sport.

The only estimate out there is ”

His company out of Gibraltar owned the broadcasting rights for the World Cup to be broadcasted in Israel (maybe else where too). It’s impossible to know his real wealth, but he works in the most popular sport and the richest. Not to mention there are no caps on the £’s he can make through transfers. No 3-4%s, etc.. The big clubs spend £70-100 million on transfers in and out each summer, with 10%+ going to agents. And there are many big clubs, Liverpool, Manchester, Chelsea, Barcelona, Madrid, AC, Inter, Juventus, Bayern, Valencia, etc.. So much opportunity for him, and no salary cap.

I have seen in a English paper they guessed his wealth to be “well over £60 million”, but can’t find article. Look online and you might find it. Myself, I guess he has assets worldwide of around £400million, with the rights to the World Cups, his agencies, owning third party rights for players, and his connections from consulting billionaire owners.

Take a look into Global Sports Agency, that is one of the agencies he runs. He is a very secretive man, very hard to find the information online but certainly the richest despite this. Also look into HAZ Sports. Not much online, maybe if you live in Israel ask around about Pini. Most know him. Also Zahavi & Glynne Sports Agents in London, again hard to find information online but another one of his businesses.

Contracts are bigger for American sports, but the agents have more restrictions. In America they can’t make money from transfers, only contracts. Pini made £3 million alone from Martins transfer, £5 million from Chelsea last summer. Can’t help friends buy clubs (Roman, Alexandre, etc..), can’t own share of players transfer rights in US, etc..

Pini is the world’s version of William Wesley, but he works with billionaires instead of players exclusively…and is an actual agent. Hope this helps you Jason. Pini is not a perfect man, but a successful story of a non-college sports agent. He fought for our country, and made it big. Good story of an Israeli sports agent making it big.

Your comments are spot on right TP3. He certainly is the biggest dude out there in terms of acting as a sports agent. He also helped Roman take over Chelsea F.C and the Russian dude take over Charlton. He also owns private shares in teams etc. Also he was the one who found Peter Cech I think. I was in contact with this guy maybe 2-3months ago trying to land an internship. Got in contact with him through a friend.

Regarding sports management masters degrees, save your money. As a former Minor League Baseball front office staffer and a current law student, I can boldly say that your best bet for working in sports after college is to either (a) go get an internship (even if its unpaid) in the field you are most interested in or (b) go to law school and either write about the topic you are interested in or, again, intern while in law school.

An internship and/or a law degree is far and beyond more valuable than a one or two-year sports masters degree. The only utility that I have seen for a sports masters degree is for someone that is already in the sports business looking to boost their resume and, perhaps, acquire a promotion. I have had friends/co-workers working in the front office with Masters degrees that were on the same pay level as people with 1-2 years more “experience” as interns.

Regarding sports law in law school, I would recommend making it a hobby but don’t go in thinking you are going to be the next Drew Rosenhaus. The two avenues to break into the business are to (1) attempt to get a very coveted internship with a team’s legal department or a sports agency; or (2) get onto law review, start writing about sports law, and try to get published in a sports law journal. It also helps to have friends and/or relatives in the business because basically it comes down to who you know rather than what you know. With any sports job, that is likely the case. It also doesn’t hurt to have an ivy league background. The previous posters portrayed the sports law classes in law school very accurately.

If it’s your dream to work in sports then go get it done…good luck.

so i have a question, i want to possibly become a sports agent, and was wondering, could i do the public relations route, and take some contract law classes? or a business degree perhaps? i just dont think i would want to go to law school, i mean im only a sophmore in college, i mean the problem is, im good at selling things and i love sports and the negotiating. but the whole math thing is throwing me off unless im over thinking its impact in the field? so i was wondering what are some routes to get into the field? is there another job im not thinking of that would suit me better?

thanks for all your help – Dan Kelly

Hi Kam. Just wondering how you were able to get the internship with Pini Zahavi. I was wondering if you could lead to some more information about him, possibly contact information, as I’m very interested in becoming a sports agent for soccer players in Europe. Thanks for your help.


I know I’m a little late… but Dan I am a similar situation as you. While I aspire to respresent athletes, I am just as interested in marketing and PR. With that said, it makes absolutely no sense for anyone to go to law school if their sole intent is to become a sports agent. Law school will cost over 100k and if you arent in a top 10 school it may prove to be a bad investment, economically at least.

I’m in my senior year of undergad majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. I went into this major hoping to learn the art of persuasion, with the intent of going to law school. While law school is still a possibility for me (despite low gpa – 3.1), I have also considered going to NYU or Columbia to study Sports Business, and most recently I have considered getting an MBA.

I think it’s important to take the time necesary to make the best decision for yourself. I think too many people get caught up in their pre-designed path to becomming an agent that they waste tons of money and years of their life without moving towards their goal. At the end of the day, you have have an MBA, JD, and MS in Sports Business – and still not have a single client. While many have discounted the MS in Sports, I think that may prove to be the most valuable in terms of landing a job in sports (the contacts are key). However, it is also the most narrow degree and your 2 years of study would be better spent on something else if you want to be able to earn a decent wage in the future.

Aspiring to become a sports agent is no different than aspiring to play pro sports or become a musician. It is a dream job! While it’s important to hold on to your dreams and do something you love, eventually there comes a point where you have to branch out and do something (non-sports related perhaps) that will allow you to provide for yourself and your family. I’m pretty sure if sports agent’s were getting paid 10 bucks an hour the field would not be as desirable.

In regards to communications jobs in sports, keep in mind that many teams hire companies to do work for them… meaning you may have to look at firms that have sports teams as clients, rather than aspiring to work for an actual team.

I hope this was helpful, and I hope it isn’t too old of an article that this goes unnoticed.

One more thing… while many aspects of athlete representation are legal, majority of it requires a business approach. We are in an age where contracts are pretty standard. A draft pick is almost locked into a salary range, and depending on his performance over the first few years in the league, he will sign an extension. I don’t think you have to have balls of steel and Einstein’s brain to realize what a player is worth. It does, however, take a sharp business mind to successfully manage a player and the business that a player eventually becomes.

(No offense to the ladies)


I completely agree with your comment that a sharp business mind is more important than anything. For example, in the NBA’s first round of a 2 round draft, agents really have little to no influence on a player’s salary. I tell a lot of potential clients that when they are thinking about choosing an agency, the difference in what I negotiate or another agent negotiates in terms of a playing contract will be of little consequence. In any given situation, I may be able to get the player a little more than another agent or a little less. It’s everything else that separates us from the rest.

Hey guys what is the best route to take on obtaining a degree to become a sports agent? Ive heard 1.Sports law
2.Business law
3.Get certified

I want to obtain a law degree to be a step above others that are only certified…..what should i do?

Hey guys,

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic for the past few months, and I have learned some interesting facts while talking to a few industry natives. There are two major routes (that I know of, I’m sure there are plenty more) you can take with sports agentry: Law, which enables you to negotiate contracts and fulfill the roles typically assigned to Sports Agents; and Financial Investment, in which an MBA comes in handy. I agree with the statements made above that suggest the hardest part of breaking in to the sports agentry industry (regardless of what route you take) is making the connections.

I myself have been studying for 3 months for the GMAT for my applications to MBA programs, but more importantly, I have been working to make as many viable connections as I possibly can!

I hope this helps clarify some things.

I think it comes down to maximizing your potential within the constraints of your situation. For example, if you have the ability to finance law school, and understand the amount of hard work it takes to achieve success (high class rank); why not make the investment in yourself. In my situation, I already hold an MBA and work in NYC for a software company (global marketing), but am intrigued regarding a change of career into sports (former D1 athlete, 25 yrs old, passion for sports). I am looking at NYU for sports business exactly for the aforementioned “within the constraints” theory (in my case, the ability to go attend part-time while working).

There is never one “right” path for your success; your hard work, mixed with some luck will determine your success.

And remember, it comes down to being able to relate and communicate with others. This skill is most valuable and will be used no matter which path you choose.

All the best…

Hey guys,

I really want to become a sports agent. I got good grades in high school and could have gone to an ivy league school if I wanted to. Does going to law school really give you an upper hand? I am friends with a descent amount of college football players who have a good shot at going pro and would hire me as their agent. Would taking an 8 week online course to learn how to become an agent and negotiate contracts be enough so I could represent these athletes? Could I make it on my own by having a handful of clients while getting a certification from an online course?

My name is Kellie Harris and I am a sophomore at Temple University. Right now, my major is Sport and Recreation Management, but I am strongly considering going to Marquette and getting a joint J.D/MBA in sports law. I wanted to know what the industry is like for females, minority females at that, and since I have to do a junior and senior internship, what agencies in philadelphia are the best, and what is your advice on getting ‘In” or connections with current agents as networking tool?

Thank you,

Kellie harris__ and you can email me the answer if you’d like… my email is [email protected]

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