Ricky Volante

Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder


Ricky is a Co-Founder of the HBL and serves as the Chief Executive Officer overseeing the day-to-day operations of the League, while focusing on business and operational growth and the benefits created for the athletes.

Additionally, Ricky is an attorney at Buckley King LPA in their Sports, Entertainment, and Media Practice Group. He has primarily focused on legal issues related to professional and amateur sports, film and television, music, business formation and regulation, intellectual property, digital media, and the Internet. Ricky also co-founded Sixth City Sports & Entertainment, a sport and film consultancy based in Cleveland, OH.

Ricky is an Adjunct Professor at the Harvard Extension School and Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He teaches Representing the Professional Athlete, Negotiating and Drafting Sports Venue Agreements, Introduction to Sports Law for Non-Lawyers, and The Legal Evolution of America's Three Major Leagues. 

Ricky graduated summa cum laude from Lake Erie College with a B.S. in Sports Management, and received the Class of 2012 Academic Excellence Award for the School of Business. Ricky completed his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. 

Keith Sparks

Chief Development Officer


Keith is the Chief Development Officer of the HBL. As the CDO, Keith focuses on developing the League’s relationships with investors and strategic partners, while also advising on strategic decisions affecting the HBL’s growth and development. Keith additionally oversees the development of the HBL’s player programs and initiatives.

Keith brings extensive experience in the development, structuring, financing, and management of complex energy infrastructure businesses.  Keith has advised institutional investors on direct equity investments across several energy chains.  Many of the transactions initiated or led by Keith were first of their kind development projects or financings that continue to outperform despite the absence of local regulatory or legal precedent and/or the presence of historically antagonistic stakeholders.  He has successfully developed projects in Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean Basin.

Additionally, Keith served as Assistant Athletic Director at Stanford University recruiting and working with scores of prominent athletes, coaches and administrators engaged at the highest levels in the collegiate and professional sports industry.

Keith graduated from Stanford University with an A.B. in Human Biology and completed his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) at the University of Texas School of Law.

Andy Schwarz

Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder


Andy is a Co-Founder of the HBL and serves as the Chief Innovation Officer. Andy assists with innovative decision-making, strategic planning, and setting the League’s strategic priorities.

Andy is an antitrust economist with a subspecialty in sports economics. Notably, Andy was the case manager for the NFL’s economic expert in L.A. Raiders v. NFL and for Plaintiffs’ economic experts in O’Bannon v. NCAA and the economic expert for the Keller v. NCAA settlement class. He has testified to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, participated on another U.S. Congressional panel on college sports, and has served as an economic expert in a wide variety of state and federal litigation. Andy is one of the co-founders of OSKR and served as President/Managing Partner for the firm’s first three years. 

Andy has been featured on ESPN, in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg News, Sports on Earth, and USA Today. He is a frequent contributor to Vice Sports and Deadspin and has written for Slate, Forbes.com, 538.com, and ESPN.com. He is featured in Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss. Andy’s academic papers have analyzed secondary ticket markets, law and economics topics, the antitrust questions inherent in NCAA bylaws, and the economics of virtual goods. He has co-authored a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Sports Economics and in the forthcoming College Athletes’ Rights and Well-Being: Critical Perspectives on Policy and Practice.

Andy holds an M.B.A. from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, an A.B. in history from Stanford University, and an M.A. in history from Johns Hopkins.

Ralph Greene

Advisory Board


Ralph is the founder and CEO of Columbia Consulting Group. He vaulted into the sports technology consulting space in December 2016 after capping off a magnificent run working at some of the leading sports enterprises in the world.

During his 21-year Nike career, Ralph was at the forefront of some of the most dominant stories in Nike and sports history. Highlights include strategizing and executing “All-School” NCAA sponsorship deals; signing Tiger Woods, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant; and igniting the international “wave” into the NBA with the identification and signing of Yao Ming, Tony Parker, and Dirk Nowitzki. More recently, Ralph lead Nike football, working on the NFL partnership, directing ESPN broadcasts of Nike football camps and events, and delivering the trailblazing technology partnership between Nike and Hudl, the leading football social network.

Ralph had a full career before going to Nike. He represented Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets during his championship years in 1993-94. Ralph signed “The Dream” to an international spokesperson deal with the NBA, traveling from Paris to London to Malaysia, helping build the global NBA footprint. Ralph was a partner in Integrated Sports International (Now 16W Marketing) in the representation of Howie Long, Steve Young, and Phil Simms. Prior to that, he served as the sponsorship director for the NFL, driving partnerships with NFL sponsors like Gatorade, Nissan and Visa. Ralph began his career at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising as an account supervisor, leading brands like Campbell’s Soup and AT&T.

A graduate of Stanford University (’83) and Columbia University School of Business (’85), Ralph now resides in Tigard, Oregon.

Bijan C. Bayne

Advisory Board & Co-Founder


Bijan C. Bayne is an award-winning Washington-based freelance columnist and critic, and author of Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball, which was named to the Suggested Reading List of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. The book is also cited in Booktalks Plus: Motivating Teens to Read by Lucy Schall, and was named a Suggested Book of Interest by the organization Teachers Network, in 2010. Bijan has served as a branding consultant to Nike, Destination DC, The Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Cincinnati, and Time & Place Luxury Homes. He is an editorial consultant to The World Bank, and has written ads for The US Navy SEALs and The US Coast Guard. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Bijan is also the author of the first biography of basketball hero Elgin Baylor. Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball, was named a Book That Inspires, by the Christian Science Monitor, and one of the Most 25 Inspiring Books of 2015, by Conversations Book Club. His book Martha’s Vineyard Basketball: How a Resort League Defied Notions of Race & Class, was named a Must Read, by BET. In 2016, he served as a grants panelist for the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. In October 2016, he presented on the panel, Black Humor: Reflections on an American Tradition at the University of New Hampshire’s annual Black New England Conference. At the BNEC 2015, Bijan participated on two panels, one contrasting the film 42 with 1949’s The Jackie Robinson Story, the other on early Black sports in New England.

In July 2002, Bijan, who speaks Spanish, won the Robert Peterson Research Award for his presentation “The Struggle of the Latin American Ballplayer,” given at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. On April 14, 2011, The Jackie Robinson Society of The George Washington University honored Bayne with “…a teaching award in appreciation of your many years of special contribution to GW students through your participation.”

Dr. Johari Shuck

Academic Advisory Board


Dr. Shuck, a Chicago area native, is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Indiana University. Dr. Shuck's dissertation titled, “Legacy in Black and Blue: A Historical Examination the Experiences of Black Football Players at the University of Michigan 1968-2004” was awarded a research grant from the National College Athletics Association (NCAA) and the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library. Johari’s research has focused on Intercollegiate Athletics, History of Education and Civic Engagement. Her work related to these areas has been published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Traces (an Indiana Historical Society publication), and Out of Bounds magazine.

Johari has several years of experience working with middle school, high school and college athletes and their families. At Indiana University she advised and taught student-athletes and created a course, “The Black Male Athlete College Experience” that she taught for 3 years. Johari has worked with nonprofit organizations to develop educational workshops for high school athletes. She has also partnered with former NFL players to develop and design football camps featuring coaching staff from the University of Michigan and University of Texas where she launched her signature, Parent Empowerment Program.

In 2016, Johari was recognized by the Women’s National Basketball Association as an Indiana Fever Inspiring Woman awardee and was also honored by Ebony Magazine as a Power 100 honoree (2016), with 7 fellow PhD graduates known as “The Great 8” from Indiana University.

Dr. Dale Sheptak

Academic Advisory Board


Dr. Sheptak provides a unique blend of sports industry, academic, and human resource management expertise. 

Dr. Sheptak brings a wealth of knowledge in the sports industry with 20 years of experience in the start-up and administration of sports-related businesses. In addition to starting and owning two sports-related companies, he has consulted on the formation and re-engineering of many others ranging from youth sports to health clubs and athletic facilities. Dr. Sheptak has presented and published both nationally and internationally on sport labor, the role of volunteers in sports organizations, event management and policy, and issues in youth sport.

As a sociologist, Dr. Sheptak focuses on the role of sport in education and how/if sport adds or detracts from the education system’s role of preparing young athletes for life and work. Dr. Sheptak also focuses on, what he calls, the “commodification of youth athletes” and how youth sport as a business model is changing the way we coach and develop young athletes. He is also active in researching precarious labor in the sport industry.
Additionally, Dr. Sheptak has over 15 years of training and human resources experience, both as a consultant and as a practitioner, holding positions with a major consultancy firm in Northeast Ohio and management positions with a major national retailer, an international software development start-up, and a multinational banking corporation. He has been instrumental in creating and implementing successful skills development programs, supervisory and management programs, distance learning initiatives, and product specific programs.
Dr. Sheptak earned a Doctorate in Social Sciences and a Master of Science degree from the University of Leicester, England. He is an Associate Professor of Sport Management at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio and a partner at Sixth City Sport and Entertainment LLC.