The Business of Sport

Written by
Lois Elfman

May 6, 2024

May 6, 2024 • by Lois Elfman

An increasing number of undergraduates envision careers in sports that involve them being professional athletes. Attorney Alicia Jessop is a tenured professor at Pepperdine University, California, in the Sport Administration program. There, she teaches sport law, sport sponsorship and sales and sport finance.

Her research has been published in Harvard Journal of Entertainment and Sports Law and Journal for Legal Aspects of Sport. Jessop is also a journalist whose work has appeared in The Athletic, Washington Post, Forbes, CNBC and Today, she is sought after by media outlets as an expert on areas of sport law and sport business, frequently appearing on television, radio and podcasts.

Shadowing a sports editor at a local newspaper in Colorado, where she grew up, dashed her dreams of being a sports reporter. He called out the negative aspects of the field, including what she would face as a woman. It changed her course and pointed her to law school.

“I’ve been a sports fan my entire life,” says Jessop. “When something is meant for you, you end up finding your way back to it.”


There was not a plan to enter academia. Jessop graduated from law school in 2009, during the Great Recession. She wanted to work in sports and entertainment, but those jobs were not available, so she accepted a position at a corporate law firm. It was a positive work environment and a solid paycheck, but she wasn’t fulfilling what she believed to be her calling.

She started a website about sports law issues called, and it took off when its launch coincided with the 2011 NBA lockout. An unexpected media career arose, which she wanted to pursue.

“I thought, ‘What job will let me research sports, talk about sports and do these things while on the job?’ Academia was a natural fit,” says Jessop, who spent four years at University of Miami, FL before coming to Pepperdine.

Pepperdine’s Sport Administration program gives students real-world experience in the business of sport so they are prepared to enter the industry upon graduation.

“All of our professors have real world experience in the industry,” Jessop says. “We bring those lived experiences into the classroom. … What we seek to do every single day is give the students that exposure and understanding to what is going on in this rapidly changing field.”


A distinguished researcher, Jessop explores areas of promotion, advancement and investment into underrepresented people and their business ventures as well as areas of law that apply to the welfare of athletes, artists and consumers. Admitted to practice in California and Colorado, she also works as an attorney representing clients in the sports industry, including athletes and broadcasters.

“One [of my lines of research] looks at anything having to do particularly with college athlete well-being,” Jessop says. “This could range from exploring their employee status to figuring out how to get them greater compensation and greater benefits to these days a lot of work on data privacy. I’m addressing the issue of who owns the athletes’ biometric data and what types of privacy safeguards should be imputed onto that ownership.

“Whenever I’m coming up with what I’m going to research next, I always hope that my research can make an impact and hopefully make life better or easier for somebody,” she continues. “My publications largely center around promoting athlete rights and athlete wellbeing from the compensation, benefit and these days, data privacy lens. Then, also I’m looking at assets to capital, which has ramifications for women’s sport athletes as we’re seeing the growth and popularity of their sports.”

Contemporary Issues

When name, image and likeness opportunities became available to collegiate athletes in 2021, she delivered a series of educational programs to NCAA Division I athletes. Jessop had spent years researching the subject and advocating for greater rights for college athletes. This included drafting several pieces of proposed federal legislation with a U.S. senator and a U.S. congressman.

In 2023, she was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. That year, she also became vice chair of the sports division of the American Bar Association’s Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries.

“To me, media is sport because that’s who holds the purse strings and the decision-making power,” says Jessop, of the networks and platforms that pay for the media rights to broadcast sports. She gained valuable information through her study on the drivers and inhibitors of funding for female entrepreneurs in the screen industry.

Jessop relaunched in 2023, and in this time of athletes being empowered, it gives them a playbook for life beyond the game. Entrepreneurial endeavors are covered, as are leadership, financial and business strategies.

She’s been known to highlight the finances of Power Five Division I football and men’s basketball programs to show there are head coaches receiving, at times, multi-million-dollar salaries, as do some athletic directors.

“This capital largely would not exist but for the labor that’s producing it, the labor here being the college athlete,” she says. “As a journalist, I always want to find stories that other people aren’t telling. … I try to get people thinking about more than the Xs and Os, and to think about the capital that’s flowing through this industry, but also to see the human nature of the athlete beyond their talent.”