FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill to increase oversight of multi-million dollar endorsement and sponsorship contracts between private companies and Kentucky's public university athletic departments.
The proposal comes as the FBI and federal prosecutors investigate whether corporate money was used to illegally to recruit college athletes. The University of Louisville basketball program and its relationship with ADIDAS is part of that investigation.
State Representative Kelly Flood filed the bill. She serves the 75th House District, which is in Fayette County. It includes the University of Kentucky. If the bill becomes law, it would require boards of trustees at Kentucky's public universities to review sports-related contracts.
"There is no distinction between a university and its sports teams, which is why it matters that these schools' governing boards have a formal role approving the lucrative sponsorship and endorsement contracts their athletic departments enter into," said Rep. Flood in a news release. "These contracts have grown exponentially, with some worth well over $10 million a year. The bill I am filing today simply calls for our boards of trustees to review these contracts before they're signed, to make sure they protect the university's good reputation and are financially viable."
The University of Kentucky responded to the filing on Monday afternoon, saying such safeguards are practiced there.
"The Board Chair and the chair(s) of relevant Board committees are kept informed of all major contracts involving University units, including UK Athletics, UK HealthCare, and Housing and Dining," UK said in a statement.
The 75th District Representative says her bill aims to make sure a review by the board happens at each school for each deal.
"They are not required or mandated, this would change that."
Representative Flood says she began reviewing contracts after news of the federal investigation involving Louisville broke.
"I did my due diligence and found that our universities followed proper procurement standards, which is the good news," Rep. Flood said. "What stood out, however, is that the corporate interests included language in the contracts that protected them should the schools come under NCAA investigation. I didn't find comparable protections for the universities if the situation was reversed and a company was under scrutiny. The review my bill calls for would give trustees the ability to ensure that the university's financial security and reputation are protected in these public-private partnerships. For example, they might have questioned the previous deal U of L had with ADIDAS, which provided nearly all of the money to the coach rather than to the athletic department. It is much better if we catch these concerns on the front end rather than after the fact."
News of the federal investigation cost both Men's Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich their jobs last fall. Pitino has sued both ADIDAS and the University of Louisville Athletic Board over his firing.