For as long as he can remember, Edwin Piner wanted a career in football. And it didn’t have to be on the field. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Monique Eubanks never thought much about the game.
But that didn’t stop the two Wayne State University Law School students from teaming up to compete in the sixth annual Professional Football Negotiation Competition, held Jan. 23-25 at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. The competition is a simulated contract negotiation using real life scenarios and actual upcoming NFL free agents to sharpen participants’ negotiation skills, as well as their knowledge of actual NFL contracts.
A total of 48 teams representing 39 schools from across the United States and Canada took part in the 2020 competition. After pulling an all-nighter to prepare, Eubanks and Piner advanced to the semifinals, ultimately finishing among the top four teams.
“Although we did not win, we were provided great feedback and ways to improve from A.J. Stevens (coordinator of football administration) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” Piner said. “The competition was also a great bonding experience for us. We became a team, in every sense of the word.”
Before coming to Wayne State, Piner played football at Howard University and even tried out for the NFL. “But after that didn’t work out, I knew my next step was to become an agent,” he said. “I saw the NFL Contract Negotiation Competition as an opportunity to gain some experience in the field against the next wave of people who want to be in the same field.”
A love for negotiating is what drew Eubanks, who earned both her master’s and bachelor’s from Wayne State, to the competition. With Piner’s football knowledge and her negotiating and sales experience, Eubanks thought it could be a good matchup.
“We figured partnering our skillset together would make a dynamic duo,” Eubanks said. “Originally, I was nervous about doing this competition because I have very limited football knowledge. But while it is important to be prepared by studying and knowing the issue at hand, negotiation skills are transferable to any topic.”
In order to simulate an actual negotiation, law students in the competition received a set of confidential objectives that served as guidelines. Participants represented a football club or free agent — Piner and Eubanks represented the Buccaneers in the first round — and were provided with a Microsoft Excel workbook that allowed them to quickly crunch the numbers and determine if contract proposals met their requirements. Experts in the industry served as judges for each negotiation and ended the competition with a discussion of relevant NFL topics.
Even before their plane touched down in New Orleans, the pair had already completed a lot of prep work and knew, to some extent, what to expect. That’s because in November 2019, Eubanks and Piner won Wayne Law’s NFL Contract Negotiation Competition. The victory punched their tickets to the national competition at Tulane.
The competition, which is in its second year, was born from the zealous advocacy of Wayne Law alumni Elijah Simkins and Samer Hamade. Hamade and Simkins developed the day long competition and served as the coaches for Wayne Law’s team at the 2019 National Competition.
Wayne Law’s NFL Contract Negotiation Competition is supervised by Assistant Professor (Clinical) Rebecca Robichaud and sponsored by the Law School’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society. It is an opportunity for students to hone negotiation skills in front of practicing attorneys. And like the competition at Tulane, Wayne Law students represented either an NFL player or team and worked to come to an agreement on a contract for their client.
“The competition is unique in that it is not for credit and is open to all Wayne Law students,” Robichaud said. “Each of the two years has brought a diverse representation of the Law School’s student body to the day-long competition.”
Traveling to Tulane to serve as coach to Eubanks and Piner was one of last year’s in-house competition victors, James Claborn. “The competition is a great way to learn about NFL contracts, but you learn skills that go beyond that,” Claborn said. “It’s an opportunity to practice negotiation skills in high-pressure situations.”
Both Piner and Eubanks agreed that Wayne State's competition was a great primer for the Tulane competition. “We saw a lot of overlap and knew how to use their Excel tools and how to prepare our arguments as a result,” Piner said. “The Tulane competition was a great experience. It provided networking opportunities for everybody involved, and it gives you a glimpse into the life of an agent or team negotiator.”
Eubanks said that even though she doesn’t plan to practice in the sports world, the experience was helpful in showing how litigation and negotiation skills go hand in hand. “Plus, I am now interested in adding transactional law to my area of expertise,” she said.
For Piner, it further cemented his NFL career aspirations.
“Coming into law school, my goal was to become an agent,” he said. “As I prepare to take the next steps on the journey, this experience served as a confidence booster.”