The First Lady of Sports Law Discusses NCAA Economics and the NBA Lockout

Kristi Dosh aka SportsBizMiss

Kristi Dosh is truly a jack (or jill) of all trades. The University of Florida Law School graduate is a successful finance and real estate attorney at Taylor English in Atlanta. Dosh is also an expert on sports law and business. Kristi writes for SportsMoney on Forbes.com about numerous business and legal issues facing professional and collegiate athletics. In addition to founding BusinessofCollegeSports.com, she is also the founder of It’s A Swing and a Miss, a blog dedicated to analysis of issues in Major League Baseball. Kristi appears regularly on SportsNite on Comcast Sports Southeast as “Miss SportsBiz,” an expert on legal and business issues in sports. Dosh also has two books coming out next year; one about MLB collective bargaining and the other about paying NCAA athletes. You can follow Dosh on Twitter here.

You’re an attorney, a sports commentator, you run a website and write books. So when exactly do you sleep?

Generally from 11 pm-6 am. Seriously, I try to keep myself in a routine, otherwise I feel disorganized and overwhelmed. I always tell people that not having kids helps. I have no idea how parents balance a career and their kids, much less anything additional. I don’t really have hobbies anymore. My sports work started out as a hobby, but then I was doing radio and tv and writing for multiple outlets and it became a career. Luckily, it’s something that still feels like a hobby – something I do purely for enjoyment. I just make time for it. I don’t read for pleasure very often, I don’t watch as much reality tv and I get up about two hours earlier than I’d like.

How did you get into sports business law? Where did your Miss SportzBiz moniker come from?

In terms of my legal practice, I actually consider myself a finance attorney. Most of my work within my practice is for banks and doesn’t relate to sports at all. As far as how I got into my sports work and using my law degree to analyze issues in sports, it all started with a Tax Law seminar in law school. I didn’t want to write about the Internal Revenue Code for my final paper, so I asked the professor if I could write about internal taxation in baseball (revenue sharing and the luxury tax). He said yes, and the rest is history. That article was published, I was introduced to a sports book publisher and got my first book deal. I used that to get positions with Forbes and Comcast Sport Southeast and then I founded BusinessofCollegeSports.com. I credit Twitter for the ability to build a solid following and get on local and national radio shows. I began on Twitter as BasbllEconoMiss (or something like that), but after joining Forbes and CSS needed something that covered all sports. SportsBizMiss just came to me one day, and I love it.

One of your forthcoming books is about paying NCAA athletes. Why do you think that college athletes will never be paid? Do you think the NCAA will loosen the restrictions on marketing student-athletes at all?

The book is about the business of college football as a whole, but one of the hottest topics covered is why college athletes will never be paid, hence why it ended up in the book’s title: Saturday Millionaires: why college athletes will never be paid and other uncomfortable truths about the business of college football.

I don’t think college athletes will ever be paid beyond having their scholarships increased to cover cost of attendance – I definitely think that’ll happen. Beyond that, there are a long list of issues. First, only 22 schools are self-sustaining, meaning they don’t use student fees, institutional support or taxpayer money to balance their budget. Even if they could afford it, the second issue effectively kills the discussion. Currently, most athletic departments are tax-exempt entities under a provision that allows exemption for entities who “promote amateur athletics.” If athletes are paid above and beyond cost of attendance, I think it’s possible they become classified as employees. Then there’s an argument the athletic department is no longer promoting amateur athletics. If they lost their tax-exempt status not only can they be taxed on revenue, but some donations to the department are no longer tax-deductible to the donor. Donations account for a larger percentage of revenue than conference distributions at many schools, so this could mean a huge loss. It’s not a foregone conclusion this would happen, but it’s too big of a risk for schools to take.

Can you tell us a bit about your other book “Balancing Baseball: How Collective Bargaining Has Changed The Major Leagues”?

This is the book that was born out of the paper I wrote for my Tax Law seminar. It examines how the provisions of the collective bargaining have evolved over the years, specifically regulations regarding the first-year player draft, free agency, revenue sharing, and the luxury tax.

On a similar note, you’re an expert in collective bargaining agreements. How far away are the sides in the NBA lockout, and do you expect a full season to happen?

They’re about as far apart as you can be and still be discussing the same overall topic. I’m encouraged there have been some substantive meetings the past couple of weeks that weren’t court ordered, but I don’t see any way the entire season can be saved. I expect to see at least the first month lost, possibly far more.

What are the big changes you expect to see when the NBA and its players finally do reach an agreement? Is contraction a good idea?

There no doubt that the current NBA system is broken. With no meaningful revenue sharing and a cap with three hundred and one exceptions, it’s no wonder. I think the sides agree the system is broken. However, each thinks the other should fix it. The owners want the players to take massive pay cuts reminiscent of what hockey players took after the 04-05 lockout, and the players want owners to institute more comprehensive revenue sharing. The owners think revenue sharing is an owner issue and shouldn’t be part of the collective bargaining agreement, yet it’s part of every other pro sport’s collective bargaining agreement. I’m a firm supporter of a comprehensive revenue sharing system in the NBA. MLB moved over $400 million last year. The NBA? Around $60 million. The last four champions in the NBA have come from three of the largest media markets in the league: LA, Dallas and Boston. That’s no coincidence.

What are some of the legal concerns involving Texas A&M’s rumored departure to the SEC? Is this is a good business decision for A&M?

I wrote a post on this recently that you can find here.

Do you miss hockey in Atlanta yet? Why don’t you think that team could make money?

I’m a little bummed I can’t wear the great jersey my brother bought me for my birthday last year. I really enjoyed going to Thrashers games the past few years, once my brother taught me what it’s all about. That’s the problem though. As a native Atlantan, I wasn’t introduced to hockey until I was in my 20s, even though the team came while I was in high school. There was no market here for hockey and they tried to create it out of seemingly thin air. I think it could have been done, but I’m not sure there was anyone really trying to nurture that culture in Atlanta. Sometimes the “If you build it they will come” mantra doesn’t work in real life.

If it is ever proven that a current NFL player and former Miami Hurricane was involved with prostition and drugs in the Nevin Shapio scandal, would a sponsor have just cause to cancel an endorsement deal for past infractions?

It would depend on the contract. I’m sure each is different. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if most included a very broad clause about having cause to void the contract if the player does or says anything that might tarnish the brand. Whether it’s worded to cover past conduct probably varies. If I were a brand who paid for celebrity endorsements, I’d certainly make the clause as broad as possible.

Is it only a matter of time before every conference and every major athletic program has their own TV network? Is this really good for college athletics?

No, very few schools can support their own network. I expect all six of the major BCS conferences to have a network in the near future and that those will become a huge part of the landscape. If you ask me, the more places to watch college football the better.

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