UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Support for a fledgling women’s soccer league and unique experiential opportunities for students were on the agenda last week as the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) visited Penn State to meet with a variety of University students, faculty, and administrators about creating collaborations between the league and the University.
Commissioner Jeff Plush spent two days on the University Park campus at the invitation of Penn State Law professor Stephen F. Ross. After being introduced to each other by Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Plush and Ross began discussing ways that Penn State students and faculty might be able to offer support to the NWSL in a mutually beneficial fashion.
“We had the idea that Penn State students and faculty could help the league in a variety of different ways,” said Ross, who directs the Institute for Sports Law, Policy, and Research at Penn State Law. “We have business students studying sports business, law students exploring sports law, statistics students who could help with business and sports analytics—it just made sense to connect Commissioner Plush with all the resources at Penn State. This new relationship has the potential to be very beneficial to Penn State students and the league.”
While on campus, Plush met with students and faculty from the Smeal College of Business, the College of Communications, the Department of Labor and Employment Relations, and the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Development. He also met with Sandy Barbour, director of athletics, Phil Esten, deputy director, and Erica Dambach, head coach of Penn State’s NCAA championship women’s soccer team.
At Penn State Law, Plush visited with students Brian Forgue, Allison Wells, and Krista Dean. Forgue, who graduates from Penn State Law this month, was a defender on the Penn State men’s soccer team from 2009 to 2012. Wells, a member of the class of 2017, is president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society and will be interning with USA Track & Field this summer. Dean, a first-year student, is an incoming officer in the student society.
Ross organized the visit in collaboration with the Penn State Roundtable on Sports and Society, a cross-campus collaboration bringing together faculty and administrators from a variety of disciplines at Penn State whose professional work involves sports. The group includes about 30 faculty members and also serves as a means of collaboration between the University’s sports-related research centers, the Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research, the Center for Sports Business & Research, and the Curley Center for Sports Journalism.
Prior to being named commissioner of the NWSL in January 2015, Plush was managing partner of Helium Sports Group. His more than 20 years of operating experience in the sports and live entertainment industry includes service as the managing director of Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids and on the boards of Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing.