The Big Ten Conference has hired former University of Mississippi top lawyer Erica McKinley as its first chief legal officer and general counsel and named Adam Neuman, a chief of staff, as her deputy.
McKinley will oversee the Rosemont, Ill.-based Big Ten’s legal, corporate governance, enterprise risk management, compliance, litigation, regulatory, corporate, and NCAA matters, according to a Monday statement. She is the first to hold the titles of both chief legal officer and general counsel in the conference’s 125-year history.
The Big Ten cancelled its original fall football schedule due to the pandemic but restarted the season in October after demands from athletes and former President Donald Trump. There was also financial pressure—college football can generate over $100 million per year for schools with top-tier programs, and many college towns rely on football fans and games for much of their local economies.
“Building a progressive and proficient legal department—during an extremely complex period in intercollegiate athletics—is a transformative step for Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in the statement. “I am thoroughly energized by welcoming Erica’s extensive and expansive business and legal expertise to our team.”
McKinley and the Big Ten did not respond to requests for comment.
Neuman as the new deputy general counsel will keep his previous Big Ten responsibilities as chief of staff of strategy and operations, according to his LinkedIn profile.
At the University of Mississippi, McKinley also held the title of chief legal officer and general counsel. Before that, she was the chief operating officer of the National Basketball Players Association in New York.
McKinley has also worked for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as associate general counsel, and she was assistant attorney general and general counsel of the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. She began her career with Arnold & Porter and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Before McKinley, the Big Ten’s top lawyer was general counsel Tshneka Tate, who left the role in January after a year, according to her LinkedIn profile. She previously spent nearly two decades with NASCAR Media Group, most recently as vice president and senior assistant general counsel.