By Hadley Barndollar
On the first day of the Deflategate course at UNH, six television crews showed up to document the occasion.
“I don’t think any other courses have that as a dynamic,” Michael McCann, the course’s professor said, referring to the media attention.
Support for Tom Brady was evident on the first day, as the infamous number 12 was plastered across the lecture hall on students’ backs.
On Sept. 3, the day after the first class, Brady’s four-game suspension was lifted, as he beat the National Football League in what might be called the most notorious case it has ever seen.
McCann, a sports legal analyst, has written over 400 stories for Sports Illustrated on various controversies. His extensive knowledge of sports law had students spanning across many majors attracted to the course description.
“I definitely processed [the case] as a legal analyst and a professor,” McCann said.
“You get to a point where you get somewhat detached from rooting interest. I have to look at it from a neutral viewpoint and make a legal assessment,” he said.
McCann encouraged students to have an open mind as they examined both sides of the case. The class, which is majority pro-New England, will find that challenging, but engaging.
According to McCann, Tom Brady and his deflated footballs are simply a vehicle to teach sports law. The course delves into historical cases and rigorous law concepts as they pertain to the sports world.
“Some of the most significant areas of law that apply to sports can be very complex,” McCann said. “Students will be surprised by how much they learn.”
McCann referenced labor law, antitrust law, contract law and intellectual property law as a few major concepts students will have to grasp.
“When you look further into what this course is really about, you’ll see footballs and Tom Brady don’t have much to do with it,” Rachel Goodreau, sophomore journalism major enrolled in the course said.
“I’m proud that UNH is the only school in the country to take a nationwide controversy and develop it into a real-life course,” she said.
Several television crews interviewed Goodreau on the first day of class, something many students might have found overwhelming. But as a journalism major, Goodreau took the experience as a learning tool.
“I thought the first class was great, plus it gave me my fifteen minutes of fame,” Goodreau said.
UNH as the location for the course was natural, as interest in New England is heightened.
“This is of tremendous local interest,” McCann said. “The media aspect is a by-product of the social interest in the course.”
Senior business management major Sean Doucet saw the class as filling a niche for his future.
“I’m personally taking the class because I plan on going to law school and would like to be a sports lawyer,” Doucet said.
“Professor McCann is one of the top sports lawyers in the country so I did not want to pass on an opportunity to learn from him,” he said.
McCann says the course will examine several other noteworthy cases in professional sports, including analysis of the different leagues.
“The best legally managed is the NBA, part of that has to do with the fact that the commissioner is an attorney,” McCann said.
“The skillset of the NBA in resolving legal issues was very apparent last year in the Donald Sterling case. That had potential of being a massive controversy. But the league handled it very well,” he said.
McCann said the NBA has done all of the things right that the NFL has been criticized for.
“The worst and most glaring would be the NFL,” McCann said.
“They lost the Tom Brady case and Adrian Peterson case. There’s been a number of setbacks,” he said.
But perhaps the biggest question remains, what about Deflategate merits its own course? According to McCann, it’s absurdity.
“There’s an absurdity to this,” McCann said.
“It involves the possibility of footballs being slightly underinflated. Also, whatever people think about the Patriots or the NFL, it involves the league’s biggest player,” he said.
During the Patriots’ 28-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, Brady went 25-of-32 for 288 yards. Several media sources said Brady’s performance should leave the NFL “terrified.”
No deflated balls this time.