Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COL­LEGES -

A 2018 grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia Carey Law School who re­cently worked as an at­tor­ney for a pres­ti­gious Wall Street firm, Neu­man joined the con­fer­ence of­fi­cially Jan. 2, one of the first hires made af­ter Kevin War­ren took over as the league’s com­mis­sioner fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Jim De­lany.

Asked how he bal­ances his pas­sion for Mary­land — his par­ents grad­u­ated from the school and still have sea­son tick­ets for men’s basketball — and his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with the Big Ten’s 13 other teams, Neu­man said he will take an “ex­pan­sive” ap­proach.

“There’s al­ways more room in my heart,” he said.

Un­likely jour­ney

Neu­man’s path to his cur­rent po­si­tion is not typ­i­cal in col­lege ath­let­ics.

The youngest of three broth­ers, he played sports grow­ing up in Pikesville and was named the Most Valu­able Player on his high school basketball team at the since­closed Yeshi­vat Ram­bam, a Jewish day school in Bal­ti­more.

“I was solid, a good shooter,” he said.

The ties to sports came from his par­ents, par­tic­u­larly his fa­ther, Craig.

“I think ath­let­ics has al­ways played a huge part in my life,” Neu­man said. “My fa­ther played basketball with me al­ways when I was young. It was like a rou­tine Sun­day: We’d shoot hun­dreds of jump shots at the [Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter]. My par­ents were huge fans of the Ori­oles, the Ravens and Mary­land.”

What cap­tured Neu­man’s in­ter­est was the effort his child­hood he­roes gave on the basketball court.

“You’d watch a game and you’d watch peo­ple giv­ing 100%,” he said. “You’d watch peo­ple div­ing into the stands, throw­ing the ball back in and run­ning back and block­ing a shot. That was some­thing that was very in­spi­ra­tional to me as a life les­son. Sports al­ways spoke to me that way.”

Neu­man cred­its his fa­ther, who has run a Bal­ti­more ac­count­ing firm for the past 29 years, for help­ing him to see a fu­ture in sports out­side the lines. Ear­lier this month, Neu­man was part of a panel dis­cus­sion in New York where he was asked whether his Big Ten job was the great­est honor of his life.

“I thought it was a very pow­er­ful ques­tion,” Neu­man re­called. “I said, ‘I do be­lieve it’s one of the great­est hon­ors of my life.’ Be­ing at­tached to Kevin War­ren is truly a dream, and be­ing able to as­sist the Big Ten with ma­jor so­cial change and im­prov­ing the lives of stu­dent-ath­letes is just an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity. But the great­est honor of my life is be­ing my fa­ther’s son.”

Craig Neu­man isn’t com­pletely sur­prised by the di­rec­tion his youngest son took.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing he’s do­ing some­thing that is off the beaten path” for a re­cent law school grad­u­ate, the el­der Neu­man said in a tele­phone in­ter­view Thurs­day. “He’s al­ways been a creative thinker — I wouldn’t say a non­con­formist, but one that doesn’t just ac­cept the way life comes at him. … But it was some­thing he was go­ing to achieve with his will to work and his will to cre­ate.”

Big Ten con­nec­tion

It was an in­tern­ship dur­ing law school that led Adam Neu­man to his cur­rent po­si­tion.

The sum­mer job was with the Min­nesota Vik­ings, where War­ren, a li­censed at­tor­ney him­self, was the team’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. As an un­der­grad­u­ate at Yeshiva Uni­ver­sity in New York, Neu­man wrote speeches for the uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent and was al­lowed to at­tend meet­ings of the school’s board of trus­tees.

One of the trus­tees was Mark Wilf, who, along with his brother, Zygi, owned the Vik­ings.

“I used to bug him, ‘I’m go­ing to come work for your team,’ and he would say, ‘No,’ ” Neu­man re­called. “We had this lit­tle cat-and-mouse [game] for al­most two years, on and off at these trustee meet­ings. I would see him at var­i­ous events, and fi­nally he said, ‘I’m go­ing to let you in­ter­view, but I can’t hire you.’ ”

Neu­man was hired any­way. Dur­ing his time with the Vik­ings, he per­formed a num­ber of roles, in­clud­ing some in the team’s le­gal depart­ment. Even­tu­ally, his long hours at the in­tern­ship got him no­ticed.

War­ren and Neu­man would of­ten be “the last peo­ple in the build­ing at Min­nesota,” Neu­man said. “I wasn’t leav­ing be­fore he was.”

And Neu­man knew that War­ren was some­one he wanted to work for some­day.

“It was more, ‘I won­der where he’s headed?’ ” Neu­man said. “He’s in­ter­est­ing and he’s do­ing such life-chang­ing things. It was never, ‘Let me hitch my star to this wagon.’ I just en­joyed be­ing around him.”

Neu­man ap­pre­ci­ated War­ren’s in­ter­est in the fact that this young law stu­dent was an Or­tho­dox Jew, mean­ing he had cer­tain di­etary re­stric­tions and couldn’t work from sun­down Fri­day to sun­down Satur­day, no mat­ter the team’s sched­ule. Neu­man had also spent nearly two years af­ter high school study­ing the Tal­mud, the body of Jewish law and teach­ings, in Is­rael.

“He knew that I kept Kosher be­cause I was eat­ing let­tuce with the play­ers ev­ery day, and they thought it was the fun­ni­est thing in the en­tire world,” Neu­man said. “He didn’t think it was funny.

“He would say, ‘You’re not eat­ing any­thing.’ He would buy me nuts. He would find the Kosher cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. These are things that no one does. No one was do­ing this for me in law firms.”

The most mem­o­rable in­stance came when War­ren took Neu­man to a lo­cal pan­cake house one morn­ing for break­fast. As usual, Neu­man couldn’t eat any­thing on the menu.

“Kevin went to the back of the restau­rant, found the chef, and 25 min­utes later the chef came out with three pieces of lox in a dou­ble-wrapped thing with the star K — for kosher — on it,” Neu­man re­called. “We found out later that the restau­rant didn’t have that. He had in­spired them to leave the restau­rant, find it in a store, bring it back and serve it to me.

“That was the level of de­tail that Kevin War­ren goes to, [to] take care of peo­ple. That’s pretty sen­sa­tional.”

Said War­ren: “Every­one who I meet, I try to meet them where they are.”

Get­ting to work

War­ren, con­sid­ered an un­con­ven­tional choice to suc­ceed De­lany when his hir­ing was an­nounced in the fall, looks at Neu­man’s back­ground as an at­tor­ney as just the start­ing point for his evolv­ing du­ties with the con­fer­ence.

“There’s so many dif­fer­ent things I want to ac­com­plish from a work stand­point for the ben­e­fit of the con­fer­ence,” War­ren said dur­ing an in­ter­view last month at the Big Ten’s head­quar­ters in Rose­mont, Illi­nois.

“To re­ally be able to scale your ef­forts, you need to get young, tal­ented, en­er­getic peo­ple who can do that. Adam is one of them. I al­ways start with the peo­ple, the heart of the per­son, their in­tegrity and the in­tel­lec­tual ca­pa­bil­i­ties that they have.

“I don’t see it as a non­tra­di­tional hire. I’m just al­ways look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to get the best peo­ple in the best po­si­tions to grow and build the business.”

Co­in­ci­den­tally, one of Neu­man’s du­ties has been ac­com­pa­ny­ing War­ren on his around-the-league tour to visit with ev­ery Big Ten team, coach and ath­lete in the com­ing months. Their first trip hap­pened to be last month at In­di­ana, on the weekend the Mary­land men’s basketball team beat the Hoosiers at Assem­bly Hall in a downto-the-wire game.

“It was my first time at a Mary­land basketball game where I was not root­ing for Mary­land,” Neu­man said. “That was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing point of in­flec­tion of me be­cause of my affin­ity for the state and also be­cause of the fact that I had gone to so many games and cheered for them for so many years.

“But I’m in a role now where I’m re­ally treat­ing all 14 teams equally and I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing in my power to just do what’s best for the con­fer­ence, and that in­cludes be­ing even and fair-handed in all things I do. I just look for­ward to Mary­land play­ing in the Sweet 16 against some [South­east­ern Con­fer­ence] op­po­nent.”

He paused be­fore adding: “Then I’ll be able to put my Mary­land jersey on and be su­per ex­cited about that.”

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