Law prof. relishes role as faculty athletics representative

Wayne State University Law School Professor Robert Ackerman spent three days recently at NCAA Headquarters in Indiana representing WSU.

He attended the NCAA's Division II Faculty Athletics Representative Fellows Institute, where discussions and presentations covered leadership, communications among different campus constituencies and protection of student welfare. A large part of the discussion involved the issue of concussions and brain injuries and steps college athletic programs can and should take to address them. Ackerman has been WSU's faculty athletics representative since 2008, and he takes the role seriously.

"I've always been interested in sports," he said. "I was a high school athlete, but not a college athlete. I was sports director of my college radio station. I find a number of the compliance issues that come up actually require some lawyering. NCAA regulations can be very difficult to parse."

A year ago, WSU hired Alex Tiseo as its assistant athletics director for compliance. In his role as faculty athletics representative, Ackerman works fairly often with Tiseo.

"The idea is to maintain academic control over the athletic program," Ackerman said. "I report periodically to the Academic Senate and to the president."

The professor, who graduated from Harvard Law School and stepped down as dean of Wayne Law in 2012, also serves as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference management council. He previously served on the conference's executive committee and serves on its eligibility and membership committees. And he's one of three faculty liaisons to WSU's football team. He established the faculty liaisons program with WSU's sports programs a few years ago, seeking volunteers via email each year and getting a good response.

"I wanted to draw the campus closer together and provide more support for student athletes," Ackerman said.

The role of faculty liaison also sometimes can help to recruit interested undergraduate students to Wayne Law, said the professor, who concentrates his scholarship on torts, dispute resolution and communitarianism.

Other law school faculty members who have volunteered as faculty liaisons include Charles Brower, Anthony Dillof, Noah Hall, and Peter Henning.

Published: Wed, Feb 25, 2015