In the wake of an athletics scandal that brought down the University of Louisville’s basketball coach and athletics director, a Lexington legislator has filed a bill that would require university governing boards to review big sponsorship and endorsement deals.
Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich were fired by U of L last fall after a federal investigation issued a complaint that implicated several schools, including Uof L and its athletic apparel sponsor, Adidas, in alleged involvement with illegally recruiting players. As part of a 10-year, $165 million contract with Adidas, media reports found that Pitino individually received several million dollars from the contract.
“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 in approving the lucrative sponsorship and endorsement contracts their athletic departments enter into,” said Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, whose district includes the University of Kentucky.
House Bill 129 “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.”
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The Herald-Leader reported that Nike’s $47 million apparel deal with the University of Kentucky was separate from an individual contract with men’s basketball coach John Calipari. That contract was reviewed by the athletics department as part of Calipari’s outside income reporting.
Big sponsorship and endorsement deals directly with universities have to go through regular procurement rules, but they do not generally get direct oversight by boards of trustees. At UK, many endorsement and sponsorships are worked out directly between companies and JMI Sports, which controls UK’s multimedia rights, but apparel contracts are directly with the school.