Penn State’s James Franklin: Revenue sharing with players ‘inevitable’

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State coach James Franklin believes major college players will inevitably be paid and the sooner it happens the better it will be for all involved with the sport.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Franklin said that while college sports leaders are focused on finding ways to regulate how athletes are compensated for use of their name, image and likeness, a bigger change is on the horizon.

“I also think that ultimately, whether it’s in the next three years or next five years or next two years, there’s going to be some form of revenue sharing or collective bargaining agreement (with the players),” Franklin told AP. “That’s going to happen. I think that’s inevitable.

“And I think most people would prefer that than the current model because I think it’s better for the student-athletes because they’re going to be able to get contracts and know what they’re signing up for. And I think for the schools as well, I think there’s going to be value in knowing what you’re dealing with.”

Television networks pay billions of dollars to college conferences for the media rights to their sporting events, value mostly driven by football.

The Big Ten, Penn State’s conference, will make more than $7 billion over seven years from contracts it signed with multiple networks last year; Big Ten schools — there will be 16 of them beginning in 2024 – could receive something like $100 million per year from the league during the length of the new deal.

The rise in media rights fees has led to skyrocketing salaries for college football coaches, sparking criticism that the wealth is not being shared with players. Franklin is in the second-year of a 10-year contract with Penn State that pays him $8.5 million annually. He is one of about a dozen major college football coaches whose annual salary surpasses $8 million.

Franklin is 78-36 in nine years with the Nittany Lions, including an 11-2 record and Rose Bowl victory last season.

The combination of loosened transfer rules that allow college athletes to switch schools more freely than ever before and permissible NIL payments have left many coaches lamenting the difficulty of managing a roster.

Franklin mentioned a bill working its way through the California legislature that would require some NCAA Division I schools to share revenue with athletes in revenue-generating sports such as football and basketball as a possible catalyst toward pay-for-play.

The College Athlete Protection Act, introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden in January, took a step toward passage this week when it passed the Higher Education Committee.

“We owe it to these young people to put protections in place that match the unique position they are in and set them up for success post schooling,” Holden said in a statement.

There is also a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania that seeks employment status for college athletes.

Franklin said the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision against the NCAA in 2021 made it obvious the law was not on the side of the so-called collegiate model of amateurism and that college football players, in particular, would need to be paid.

“So, I think pretty much everybody I talk to is in the camp of, you know, this needs to happen and should have happened for a long time,” Franklin said.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown recently told Sports Illustrated that college football is now the “mini-NFL” and said he hated the loss of amateurism. For its part, the NCAA is counting on Congress to enact federal law addressing athlete compensation.

Franklin told AP college football was trending toward a professional model long before the NCAA lifted a ban on NIL compensation for athletes in 2021.

Franklin compared rule changes in the last decade that restrict official team activities for college athletes — not including competitions – to 20 hours per week and place limitations on contact at football practice to similar parts of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreements.

Like the NFL, the relationship between players and coaches in college football has become similar to a partnership, Franklin said.

“And I think if you go to college practices and spend time around college programs and how the coaches and players interact, it’s more of an NFL-model in terms of hey, we’re all working together to accomplish something rather than in the old days,” he said. “It was very much the coach was here and the player was here. And it was my way or the highway. That, for the most part, that’s been gone for a long time.”

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

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ATHENS, Ga. – On the heels of a second straight national football championship, Georgia has rewarded athletic director Josh Brooks a contract extension that ties him to the Bulldogs through at least 2029.

The athletic association board, wrapping up its annual spring meeting Friday at a resort on Lake Oconee, also announced plans for a new track and field facility that will free up space for two more football practice fields.

Brooks’ new contract will increase his salary to $1.025 million a year, with annual raises of $100,000.

The 42-year-old Brooks, who took over the athletic department in 2021 after Greg McGarity retired, called the Georgia job “a dream for me” and said he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Athens.

“I am extremely grateful,” Brooks said. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago as a student equipment manager. My first job at Louisiana-Monroe was making $20,000 a year in football operations.”

The Georgia board approved a fiscal 2024 budget of $175.2 million, a nearly 8% increase from the most recent budget of $162.2 million and the sign of a prosperous program that is flush with money after its success on the gridiron.

The school received approval to move forward with its preliminary plans for a new track and field facility, which will be built across the street from the complex hosting the soccer and and softball teams.

The current track stadium is located adjacent to the Butts-Mehre athletic facility, which hosts the practice fields and training facilities for the football program.

Georgia lost a chunk of its outdoor fields when it built a new indoor practice facility. After the new track and field stadium is completed, the current space will be converted to two full-length, grass football practice fields at the request of coach Kirby Smart.

“He wants to find efficient ways to practice, and there is a lot of truth to the issues we’ve had with our current practice fields,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of strain on our turf facilities staff to keep that field in great shape when half the day it is getting shade, so that has been a challenge as well. For our football program, it is better to practice on grass fields than (artificial) turf, so to be able to have two side-by-side grass fields is huge. It makes for a much more efficient practice.”

The new track and field complex, which will continue to be named Spec Towns Track, will also include an indoor facility, the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.

Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.