Senator: Brian Kelly, James Franklin, Mel Tucker Contracts Have Congress' Attention

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-C.T., speaks to federal judicial nominees during a Senate Judiciary Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, said Wednesday that the lucrative contracts recently signed by three college football head coaches—LSU's Brian Kelly, Michigan State's Mel Tucker and Penn State's James Franklin—have attracted the attention of Congress.

Steve Berkowitz of USA Today reported those coaches signed contracts worth an estimated $280 million in combined total value, and USC's Lincoln Riley recently signed a deal rumored at $110 million. Blumenthal called the size of the agreements "outrageously astronomical."

"This latest round of contracts is...definitely getting attention in the Congress," Blumenthal told USA Today. "[It] may give us a real opportunity to seek a bipartisan consensus for this kind of bill of rights" for college athletes.

In December 2020, Blumenthal was among a group of senators who introduced legislation aimed at expanding the rights of college athletes, including increased health standards, a Medical Trust Fund and a ban on the various rules that restrict player movement to different schools.

The bill didn't receive majority support in Congress, so they went back to the drawing board in an effort to receive bipartisan support for their efforts.

Blumenthal told Berkowitz it isn't likely to happen during the latter stages of 2021 because there are several other key issues to settle before year's end, but he said he wants to circle back in January with the hope that the large salaries paid to coaches sparks interest in the issue.

"You just want to say there's something wrong with this picture when...the coaches have, guaranteed, 10 million bucks a year...if they're fired, win or lose, good season or bad, no matter how they perform, whereas the guys on the field who are giving their blood, sweat and tears are guaranteed nothing," he said.

Blumenthal, who hinted toward increased taxes or antitrust treatment on colleges as a way to ensure better treatment for athletes, said there probably isn't a mechanism to limit coaches' salaries, but that's not his main concern.

"I don't think Congress should be setting compensation caps," he told USA Today. "What we should be doing is requiring fairness in treatment of athletes."

A Supreme Court ruling in June opened the door for collegiate athletes to use their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights to sign endorsement contracts, which had previously been restricted by the NCAA.

Blumenthal hopes Congress can help further expand the athletes' rights in 2022.