Nathaniel Grow, an associate professor of legal studies in the Terry College of Business, has received national recognition for his research and book on the regulation of professional sports under antitrust law.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I received my bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, which is located in the “other” Athens (Athens, Ohio). I then earned my Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. I’m currently an associate professor of legal studies in the Terry College of Business.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I’ve been at UGA since 2009. Following law school, I spent several years in private legal practice in Washington, D.C., but knew that I eventually wanted to pursue a career in academia (both of my parents were college professors). Fortunately, when the time came for me to transition to an academic position, UGA was hiring in my field. Not only did the strong academic reputation of the university attract me to the position, but the fact that UGA is located in a quintessential college town was a very appealing selling point as well.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite course to teach is the undergraduate business law survey course “Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business.” I really enjoy teaching the class because it allows me to cover a variety of areas of the law in just a single semester. Rather than get bogged down in the minutiae of a single legal topic, the class moves quickly enough to ensure that the material never gets too monotonous for the students (or me!).
The class is also a lot of fun to teach because my students tend to ask a lot of great questions about how the law applies to various situations they’ve either read about or faced themselves. Not only does this keep me on my toes, but it helps show the class that far from being a dry and tedious topic, the law is actually quite interesting and applicable to our daily lives.
What interests you about your field?
The bulk of my academic research to date has focused on the regulation of the professional sports industry under antitrust law, an area that I believe raises a number of interesting questions and challenging issues. On the one hand, a successful sports league depends on 30 or more franchises working together closely to create a compelling on-field product. On the other hand, coordination among that many independently owned and operated, competing businesses raises the possibility that the teams could collude in anti-competitive ways that harm their fans. How to balance those competing interests under the Sherman Act has proven to be a difficult task for courts, but one that I find to be a fascinating area to study.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
In 2014, I received the Distinguished Junior Faculty Award from the Academy of Legal Studies in Business, the pre-eminent academic association in my discipline. The honor recognizes professors whose careers show exceptional promise based upon their early accomplishments. Prior recipients have gone on to become leading faculty members in the legal studies field, making the award a particularly humbling honor to receive.
Another highlight has been the recognition I received for my recent book “Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption,” which details the history of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted Major League Baseball its exemption from federal antitrust law. My book won the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History as the year’s best book on American legal history that is also accessible to the general public. This award was especially meaningful to receive since I consciously wrote the book in such a way that I hoped would appeal to readers both with and without formal legal training.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I truly believe that I am a stronger teacher because of my research, and a better researcher because of my teaching. Given my area of research expertise, I am frequently able to draw upon my scholarship to incorporate current sports-related legal examples into my classes. This allows students to understand how the law applies to business in a relatable way, making the topic more interesting in the process.
At the same time, I believe that the fact that my classes tend to cover so many different areas of the law influences and improves the way that I approach my research as well. There is sometimes a risk that one will lose sight of the forest for the trees when specializing in a narrow area of the law, so my teaching helps me maintain a broader perspective when examining a legal issue.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
My primary goal each semester is to instill in students the extent to which the law impacts the operation of business in the United States. It’s not an overstatement to say that the law regulates literally everything that a business does in one way or another. I hope that after taking my class students will carry with them a better understanding of the numerous ways in which law affects business.
At the same time, I also strive to develop my students’ critical thinking skills. While I know that students will not always retain the bulk of the legal knowledge that I impart on them after they leave my class, anything I can do to help strengthen their analytical skills will only benefit them in the long run.
Describe your ideal student.
I enjoy teaching students who are hard working, engaged with the course material and willing to ask questions.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
… walking across North Campus on my way to and from my office. UGA’s campus is as pretty as any college’s in the country, and I always feel inspired and fortunate to work here whenever I walk across it.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
… cook and spend time with my wife and 2-year-old daughter.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
Like much of my generation, I was absolutely enthralled with the Star Wars movies as a child. The original trilogy, and “The Empire Strikes Back” in particular, still rank as favorites today. I also greatly enjoy most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. More recently, I’d say that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Grosse Pointe Blank” are two of my favorites.
My favorite book would have to be “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller. It is the funniest book I’ve ever read, but at the same time a powerful statement on war, corruption and human psychology.
Proudest moment at UGA?
My proudest moments at UGA are whenever I discover that a former student has decided to pursue a career in the law based on their experience in my class. To know that I’ve had that sort of impact on someone’s life is incredibly rewarding.
I’m also always proud to see students who struggled early on in my class really dedicate themselves to mastering the material, and as a result dramatically improve in their performance the rest of the semester. It is always nice when hard work does, in fact, pay off.
(Originally published on Feb. 14, 2016)