Growing up in southwestern Michigan, Ryan Horning played baseball and basketball and followed Midwestern pro sports teams. But he remembers seeing the Oakland Athletics when they were in the playoffs in the late 1980s, because his teachers let the class watch the games during school. “So I always had a soft spot for the A’s,” Horning says of the Major League Baseball team. Little did he know that in 2011 he would be hired as Senior Counsel for the club as well as for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
Horning won out over hundreds of applicants for the coveted job as the A’s number two attorney, and he believes it was Northwestern’s Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) program that helped set him apart from the many other well-credentialed attorneys who applied. “A large portion of my interview process was about the MSA program and the legal and business aspects of the sports-specific issues I had studied at Northwestern,” says Horning. Prior to enrolling in the MSA in 2010, Horning, who majored in accounting as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, earned a law degree from Chicago–Kent College of Law and practiced dispute resolution in the Chicago office of a New York–based law firm for eight years.
“Working for the A’s, I’ve used directly what I learned in program,” says Horning. “One of my first jobs here was to look at our sponsorship agreements, something I had studied in the MSA with Lesa Ukman.” Ukman is cofounder of IEG, the world’s leading provider of independent sponsorship research and analysis. Horning also cites a class in sports marketing with global sports marketing expert Jeff Bail and credits Northwestern’s athletic director, Jim Phillips, for fostering a comprehensive discussion of the sports industry and inviting the presidents of Chicago’s pro sports teams to speak to MSA students. “Lawyers need to communicate with the business people at a sports organization, and learning the terminology helps,” says Horning. “When I came to the A’s, I already spoke their language.”