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Gary Roberts on the move

The Times-Picayune reports that Gary Roberts of Tulane, one of the leading scholars in sports law, is joining the exodus from New Orleans. Roberts is to become Dean at IUPUI's School of Law, in Indianapolis. Since he's moving unto the belly of the beast - the NCAA's hometown - so he should have lots of material to work with!

The story includes a candid and wide-ranging interview with Roberts that anyone interested in scholarship on sports and economics will want to read. Topics range from the financial and political viability of professional sports in post-Katrina New Orleans to tensions between economic and academic forces in the NCAA. Here's an interesting sample, focusing on the antitrust decision in the "Raiders case:"

Q: You've said in the past that the Raiders case was the most significant in the history of professional sports law because it allowed franchises to move. But the impression many got was that the NFL did not allow the Saints to even pursue moving after Katrina. Did that supersede the old law?

A: Katrina was a special case. The Raiders case opened up a can of worms in that it lifted the absolute immunity leagues thought they had to control this sort of things. It didn't necessarily say that leagues had no ability to control who owners would be or where franchises would be located. But it creates this enormous risk of antitrust suits, and the league has backed off. I think in the wake of Katrina, knowing the kind of witness Tom Benson would make in court, Paul Tagliabue was willing to take the $1 billion risk because it was inconceivable that the Saints would win an antitrust case under those set of circumstances. The Saints were in no position to the league like Al Davis was back in the 1980s.

That's an interesting characterization of the location game being played between Benson and the NFL. In the long term however, Roberts believes the Saints will be playing elsewhere, "unless New Orleans pulls off an absolute miracle and comes back a richer, stronger city than before."