Sports

Edelman leaves dream field to pursue career in academia at Baruch College

Marc Edelman spent his first summer of law school struggling to live on a $500 monthly salary and sleeping on a small futon in the cramped former apartment of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s assistant marketing director. He was determined to live out his dream of working in the sports industry.

“It was an opportunity I would never look back on,” said Edelman, who was providing inside legal counsel for the aforementioned MISL, while attending the University of Michigan Law School. Edelman chose to struggle and work for the MISL instead of the NBA, who also offered him a job, because he believed that he would be able to contribute more to the upstart organization. Edelman would later work his way up to a role in some of the biggest decisions in the sports world, and would become one of the most recognized names in his field.

While he had worked in a field that many people can only dream of working in, Edelman only practiced in a “big law” setting for five years, opting to leave his dream field for academia instead. “I love teaching and I love writing and couldn’t be happier with how the cards played out,” said Edelman, who has published over 30 law review articles, and is currently working as a professor at Baruch College.

From the time he was a child, Edelman knew he wanted to work in sports. He also knew, however, that he would only be able to achieve that goal by entering the industry as a non-athlete. “To be frank, when I was young, I was a pretty poor athlete,” confessed Edelman, who pitched in baseball and who was “good enough just to play” tennis. He never considered himself one of the best players on the baseball team, as his fastball topped out at around 60 miles per hour, slightly below the high school average of 65. Even though he was never a star athlete, Edelman loved sports, as they were the only activities at which he “had to work very hard at just to be decent,” and the only activities that did not crush him with heavy expectations of success. Edelman knew he would have to take a non-athletic approach to entering the sports world, and he did just that.

Edelman graduated the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1999, with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. The academically minded Edelman decided to take the legal route to break into the sports world, attending the University of Michigan Law School and School of Kinesiology, from which graduated in 2003 with degrees in law and sports management.

From the summer of 2002 until 2006, Edelman worked at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates, a prominent New York law firm known for representing multiple sports leagues. In the summer before his graduation, he worked almost exclusively with the NHL, going as far as helping them plan strategically for the 2004 NHL lockout. Later, he would secure a job at Dewey Ballantine LLP, who, unlike Skadden, represented the players’ unions, instead of the leagues themselves. Edelman, who always identified with the “little guy,” saw this as a great opportunity and began to work with Jeffrey Kessler, one of the most well-known sports lawyers in the world. Together, they handled disputes between the players’ unions and the NFL itself, such as the notable labor dispute between the Miami Dolphins and former quarterback Daunte Culpepper, which they went on to win. However, after realizing how the NFL Players Association treated retired players, Edelman realized there is really no such thing as the “little guy” in the industries themselves. He therefore decided to go the academic route, leaving the firm in 2008.

While he was working at Dewey Ballantine, Edelman taught a sports law class at Seton Hall Law School every Tuesday night, which he considered the highlight of every week. It was at this time that he realized he loved working with students. Coupled with his love for writing law review articles and taking his own views, this newfound love led him to academia. His students respect his approach to class and some consider it the best part of their day. Student Joseph Nieves said that “he is one of the best professors I have ever had. His expertise in his field and his desire to help us learn in a real element, rather than a talk-show element has drawn me closer to the field.” Edelman sometimes wishes he started teaching and writing earlier, but in hindsight, is glad he did not. “I believe my level of credibility in the classroom, as well as my level of credibility consulting is substantially higher because I’ve had several years of big law practice, both on the league side and player side,” said Edelman, who would not change a thing about his career choices. Student Peter Lambrou agrees, saying that he “might not take the course” if Edelman was not the professor. Edelman believed that working in academia would be all encompassing, but CUNY allows him time to continue his practice — in which he consults an MLB team, among others — as well as write law review articles and a regular column for Forbes Money.

Edelman’s small office on the 9th floor of Baruch College’s Newman Vertical Campus pays homage to his career achievements. His walls are adorned with plaques commending his illustrious career, pictures of the blue- and yellow-clad Michigan Wolverines lined up for the next snap in football, a “Noah Syndergaard-en Gnome” bobblehead on a seemingly endless bookshelf and a bright red “Make Antitrust Great Again.” Every Monday and Wednesday, he walks up to his bright, semicircular, multi-tiered room on the 13th floor of Baruch College. The punctual Edelman closes the door to latecomers at 12:50 PM sharp, sets up his desk with papers, looks up and exclaims, “Hello class.”

October 9, 2017

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