SLA’s President-Elect Proves You Can Go Home Again
They lied. You can go home again!
Sports Lawyers Association (SLA) President-Elect Allison Rich graduated from Princeton University and after some enviable NCAA Division I college athletics positions at large and small universities ended up back “home” at Princeton University as the Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator. She’s responsible for representing Princeton nationally in NCAA governance and legal affairs, and overseeing all aspects of the student-athlete experience. As you can imagine, the fallout from COVID-19 and its potential impact on Princeton Athletics is top of mind for Rich. Here’s what she had to say about COVID-19 and her future tenure as SLA President.
Q. How has COVID-19 impacted Princeton sports?
It's probably been the most surreal experience of my career. I think back to that week in March where everything just went crazy. We've developed more scenarios over this time and thrown out more scenarios than we ever thought possible. For example, we were trying to figure out how to make the Ivy League Basketball Tournament happen and get to the NCAA Tournament. We had nine other sports that were involved in post-season tournaments at that point. How were we going to make that happen and keep everybody safe? We worked closely with our University President, the Ivy League and various schools. Over the course of that week, we went from “okay, it's all going to happen and we're going to make it work” to everything is shut down and we're all going home. It was really fast, yet it felt like about 10 years. It was quite an experience.
Q. That’s enough about COVID-19! Let’s talk about how you got involved in sports law. What was your big break?
I was planning for a career in professional sports, making connections while studying for the bar exam the summer after I graduated. A mutual friend introduced me to the Loyola University Chicago athletic director. They needed someone to help prepare for and manage their NCAA certification process. It had never occurred to me to work in college sports, but I loved the experience of working with the student-athletes, coaches, and staff. It completely re-focused my career path. College sports was – and remains - such a great experience.
Q. Congratulations on being named President-elect. You’ve headed up SLA’s philanthropy efforts and are a member of the Board of Directors. Why do you want to be President now?
I love this organization. I really believe in what we do and who we are. It's been great for me to be involved for so many years, meeting and getting to know amazing people in the industry and learning a lot. If you had told my starstruck third year law student self who was at her first conference that I would be president someday, I would have laughed.
I want to build off the efforts of previous leaders, like current President Bobby Hacker and immediate past President Nona Lee, and continue to provide a fantastic return on investment to our members and sponsors throughout the year culminating in the annual conference. We have an amazing conference, but we're even more than that.
Finally, I want to keep the culture of being the preeminent sports law organization that people turn to for information expertise and networking relationships. I think we're there, but there's so much more that we can do to be even better.
Q. Any advice for other lawyers starting a career in sports law?
Since sports law is a very wide-ranging field, you must learn along the way about the industry but also about yourself and what interests you, Surround yourself with the people who can help you take the right steps to get to where you want to be. There's no one clear path to a career in sports law. Shape your experience and your career into something that's exciting and interesting to you and where you can make a difference. Easier said than done, but take that advice and maybe you can go home again too.
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