back to news Jan. 24, 2019

Sports law expert guided by economics degree at Ohio State

Matthew Mitten '81 has had his hands all over the national and international sports landscape, helping ensure athletic competition around the world is fair, safe and governed with integrity.

From chairing an NCAA committee charged with protecting student-athletes’ health and safety to serving as an arbitrator at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Mitten’s knowledge of sports law has had a profound effect on sports and how they are regulated and played. He has nearly 30 years of experience in academia and has co-authored some of the industry’s leading academic textbooks. Last June, the National Athletic Trainers Association recognized his efforts regarding the advancement of legal, ethical and regulatory issues in the area of athletic training and sports medicine. Recently, the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Law and Sports honored him with an award recognizing his significant contributions to sports law scholarship, teaching and service.

And he attributes much of this professional achievement to the economics degree he earned at Ohio State.

“I use my economics background almost as much as my legal background in teaching, writing and speaking about a wide variety of sports topics,” Mitten said. “It’s absolutely critical to understand the underlying economics at all levels of sports competition.”

.@OSU_Econ alum & @SportsSociety board member Matthew Mitten is helping ensure athletics around the world are fair and safe.

Mitten’s wealth of sports law expertise led to his appointment on the advisory board for the College of Arts and Sciences’ Sports and Society Initiative (SSI), an interdisciplinary group of faculty and professionals that explores how athletics impact society socially, culturally and politically. 

“The SSI’s establishment was quite visionary because it’s the first multidisciplinary sports institute associated with a university that’s focusing on these important issues,” Mitten said. “Because Ohio State is a leader in the college athletics industry and its teams excel on the playing field, it’s important for its renowned faculty to combine to study the many and significant sports industry off-field issues arising in the 21st century.”

Mitten, who is originally from Toledo, Ohio, received his BA in economics from Ohio State in 1981 before earning his JD from the University of Toledo College of Law in 1984. He practiced antitrust and intellectual property law for an Atlanta law firm until 1990, when he entered the academic world at South Texas College of Law-Houston. In 1999, he moved to Marquette University, where he currently is a professor of law and is executive director of the National Sports Law Institute.

Sports is one of the top revenue-generating industries in the United States. Cash flow stemming from things such as player salaries, media contracts, ticket sales, licensing agreements and trademarked merchandise led to an industry that was worth nearly $70 billion in 2017.

“When you have a hugely popular industry that is extensively broadcast and generates billions of dollars of revenues, there’s all kinds of economic disputes,” Mitten said. “That’s why getting my economics degree from Ohio State was essential for understanding these issues.”