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Athletic programs often form the emotional and financial backbone of educational institutions large and small. But in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics, university administrators need innovative business solutions that protect their athletic legacies, enhance development opportunities, and stimulate future growth.

Thompson Coburn’s attorneys have longtime connections to the region’s higher education institutions. They offer the experience, creativity, and strategic thinking that colleges and universities need to meet their unique legal needs and expand their athletic and academic enterprises.

Stadium Finance

Thompson Coburn maintains one of the largest public finances practices in the Midwest. The firm has more than 30 years of experience in financing projects related to the construction, expansion, and improvement of many of the region’s collegiate sports facilities. 

Our award-winning public finance attorneys can advise higher education institutions on the complex aspects of sports venue financing. They also can offer counsel on the complicated tax issues involved with private donations from alumni or boosters. Our attorneys can structure financing options that ensure donors and their families can make substantial contributions to a university project while preserving their estate planning priorities.

Public finance attorneys also have experience negotiating naming rights agreements for university sports facilities, and can sort out sponsorship benefits such as the use of luxury suites.

Conference Realignment

The continuing NCAA conference shakeups have caused turbulent changes for hundreds of colleges and universities. These critical conference realignments can affect all aspects of an athletic department and a university as a whole, including advertising, broadcast rights, and future revenue. Thompson Coburn’s sports attorneys have a keen understanding of the television demographics and market size of conferences across the country, and can advise general counsel and athletic directors on conference negotiations, contracts, and admission requests to new conferences.

Compliance Programs/Risk Assessment

The recent Penn State fiasco — and its spiraling legal and political fallout for that university — has many colleges and universities on high alert. But by adopting a robust internal compliance program, these institutions can root out and properly address problems before they create significant problems for a university’s campus community, its regulatory status and its alumni relations.

As universities, especially those with high-profile athletic programs, start to come under the same public and legal scrutiny that other businesses and industries have encountered for years, Thompson Coburn attorneys can step in and help higher education institutions create effective compliance programs.

These programs could include:

  • Selection of an independent compliance officer
  • Creation of internal protocols for the reporting of potential policy violations
  • Internal investigations
  • Repair of internal controls
  • Plans for employee discipline
  • Proactive disclosure to authorities

Copyright/trademark/counterfeit goods

Universities and colleges can protect and enhance the value of their brands with the counsel of our experienced intellectual property attorneys. We provide patent protection and enforcement in the U.S. and overseas markets for brand names, team names, trademarks, web domains and more. Our attorneys have helped global companies manage and enforce large trademark portfolios, and can also assist with any licensing negotiations.

Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts

More than ever, athletic programs are dealing with the increasing problem of counterfeit sports merchandise. Our IP attorneys have extensive experience on the front and back end of anti-counterfeiting efforts.

On the front end, our attorneys can draft and negotiate contracts with overseas manufacturers that ensure a client can, should infringement occur, enforce its rights in a foreign legal system. If counterfeit goods do trickle into the United States, we can create a custom program that enlists the assistance of U.S. Customs agents in rooting out and blocking the entry of the offending products. But good enforcement efforts can start much closer to the source: Our firm’s strong connections with Chinese law firms and investigators help us quickly pinpoint and respond to counterfeiting efforts at manufacturing hubs across China.

We can act just as swiftly when a company suspects a U.S.-based counterfeiting operation is distributing infringing goods, perhaps spurred into production by a major sporting event or finals game.

Vigilant trademark enforcement can be a smart — and revenue-increasing — investment for professional sports teams. Our intellectual property attorneys can develop successful strategies to respond to counterfeiters around the globe.


A student athlete’s fight against the system

Episode 7: The state of sports betting

Episode 6: Addressing sports crises and diversity with David Cornwell

Episode 1: Drone disruptions at airports and public spaces

Episode 5: Athlete activism and community engagement

Episode 4: Nona Lee and Vicky Neumeyer

A top hat plan checklist for employers

Episode 3: Kenneth Shropshire of the Global Sport Institute

Episode 2: Mike Tannenbaum of the Miami Dolphins

Episode 1: Josh Whitman of the University of Illinois

After the Buzzer

USPTO launches new proof of use audit program

What the League giveth: St. Louis’ key role in the history of NFL relocation

What I’ve learned about life, law and sports

Drones and sports: A brief overview

Neutral arbitrators in sports: What makes it fair?

But it’s our locker room: What is acceptable behavior in the sports workplace?

Acceptable specimens are key to strong trademark protection

Blog Posts

Trouble afoot: Duke’s ‘Shoe-gate’ highlights current controversies in college basketball

Six years after Penn State, has college athletics really reformed its crisis response?

Photographer hits retailer over photo of player hitting Joey Bats

A look at the legal issues in the transgender bathrooms debate

Caitlyn on the track: Athletics, Title IX, and the transgender community

Department of Justice penalizes Ironman for illegal sweepstakes

How can a university manage an all-powerful college coach?

Now on deck: The law behind sports trading cards promotions


The Road from the Final Four

A University’s Guide to Avoid Being a Sports Center Breaking News Headline


Bob Wallace launches sports podcast After the Buzzer

Thompson Coburn earns corporate counsel recommendations five years running in national report

Bob Wallace weighs the neutrality of pro sports arbitrators for Law360

U.S. Olympic Committee appoints Ken Salomon to ethics committee

Thompson Coburn leads deal that brought One Direction to Edward Jones Dome

112 Thompson Coburn attorneys featured in 2015 Best Lawyers list

Cherie Stephens Bock selected for 2014-2015 class of Leadership St. Louis

Victoria Gilbert joins Thompson Coburn as a partner

Bob Wallace article: What’s acceptable behavior in the sports workplace?

Ouster of Rutgers coach, athletic director highlights risks for universities

Bob Wallace article: Fiscal-cliff-style negotiations fall flat in the sports world, too

Bob Wallace decides NFL suspension appeal for Seattle Seahawks player

Thompson Coburn leads refinancing of St. Louis County’s bond obligations for Busch Stadium

102 Thompson Coburn attorneys featured in 2013 Best Lawyers list

Bob Wallace, Jan Paul Miller publish article on compliance lessons from the Penn State fiasco

Bob Wallace, Mike Minton publish article on NFL concussion litigation

Bob Wallace talks sports law on the Press Box radio show

Bob Wallace joins Thompson Coburn as partner

St. Louis
314 552 6455

Cherie represents financial institutions and borrowers in various secured and unsecured lending transactions.

Cherie represents financial institutions and borrowers in various secured a...

Cherie Stephens Bock
Los Angeles
310 282 9432

Vicky is a versatile commercial finance attorney who represents banks, investors, and borrowers in a wide variety of financing transactions and investments.

Vicky is a versatile commercial finance attorney who represents banks, inve...

Vicky Gilbert
St. Louis
314 552 6065

Sara is a trusted legal advisor to public entities, nonprofit borrowers, investment bankers and bankers in a wide variety of public financing and lending transactions.

Sara is a trusted legal advisor to public entities, nonprofit borrowers, in...

Sara Kotthoff
312 580 2242

Litigation can be a chess match or a street fight: Rob has the skills and experience needed to navigate either approach.

Litigation can be a chess match or a street fight: Rob has the skills and e...

Rob Lang
Washington, D.C.
202 585 6904

Ken has spent his entire legal career in the public and private sectors in Washington, DC and has a thorough understanding and appreciation of how lobbying can advance cl...

Ken has spent his entire legal career in the public and private sectors in ...

Ken Salomon
312 580 2202

Rhonda is a finance attorney who leads complex, large-scale projects for public- and private-sector clients across the country.

Rhonda is a finance attorney who leads complex, large-scale projects for pu...

Rhonda Thomas
St. Louis
314 552 6509

As chairman of the Firm's Sports Law Group, Bob represents teams, prospective buyers of sports teams, companies interested in sports marketing and civic and government en...

As chairman of the Firm's Sports Law Group, Bob represents teams, prospecti...

Bob Wallace, Jr.