I had the privilege of being part of a very special occasion on Saturday when Rodney Fort – University of Michigan – delivered a retirement lecture on his near 40 year involvement in economics and sports economics. The lecture was part of a series of presentations, organised and hosted by Stefan Szymanski, highlighting Rod’s contributions to the field.
Attendees included Joel Maxcy, Dennis Coates, Steve Ross, Jason Winfree, Victor Matheson, Brad Humphreys, Jane Ruseski, Ryan Pinheiro and Neil Longley. Others joined online including Placido Rodriguez, Roger Noll and Young Hoon Lee. A fitting group to celebrate Rod’s enormous contribution to the field.
And this cannot be understated. The expression “He wrote the textbook” is sometimes used to describe an academic that knows a lot about their field. In Rod’s case this is literally true. He wrote the textbook in sports economics (Paul Downward and Pete Dawson share this honour).
Rod is one of the first – if not the first - sports economists to retire who’s entire career has spanned sports economics. As the field started to emerged rapidly in the early 1970s, academics began to publish in the area. Many of these had long established careers and published in different areas pre- and post-sports their economics papers. Rod’s contributions span the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and now 2020s. He’s works are part of the formative development of the field.
Three in particular stand out.
Fort, R., & Quirk, J. (1995). Cross-subsidization, incentives, and outcomes in professional team sports leagues in the Journal of Economic Literature is a masterclass. It is cited more than 1,000 times. The other two are his books with Jim Quirk – Pay Dirt (1992) and Hardball (1999). In many respects, both were ahead of their time. Combined, the two are cited more than 1,000 times.
As Rod finished his lecture on Saturday he confirmed that he would continue researching in the field. This is the beauty of academia and I was delighted to here him say it. Rod has been a pleasure to collaborate with in recent years and has been very supportive of our work in Cork and the many contributions on this blog. His visited to us in 2017 is fondly recalled by many here.
I wish Rod the very best in the next stage of his career and look forward to seeing his next wave of research in the years ahead. Well done Rod!