Legislature aims to protect student athletes

Updated: September 10, 2004, 12:42 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Congress has moved to impose tougher penalties on unethical sports agents who lure student athletes into contracts that compromise their amateur standing and damage the reputations of their schools.

The legislation, which passed by voice vote in the Senate late Thursday and now goes to the president for his signature, was promoted by Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., the former star Nebraska football coach.

"As a former coach, I witnessed time and again sports agents illegally using cash and gifts to recruit student-athletes," Osborne said in a statement Friday. "This unethical behavior on behalf of the sports agents threatens the athletes' eligibility and harms the integrity of college sports."

The NCAA has rules, and some states have standards, for sports agents, but Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., principal author of the bill, said that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous agents from "aggressively pursuing these kids anyway, possibly ruining a chance to compete on the college level and get a degree."

The legislation would bar agents from recruiting student athletes by giving false or misleading information or providing anything of value to the athlete or his family before entering into a contract.

The agent must also disclose in writing that the athlete may lose NCAA eligibility after signing an agency contract and requires the athlete and the agent to notify the school's athletic director that the athlete has signed a contract so the school does not play a now-ineligible athlete in a game.

Violators would face civil actions by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general and fines of up to $11,000 a day could be levied for each offense.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the legislation would provide a federal backstop for NCAA efforts on behalf of the Uniform Athlete's Agent Act, which requires sports agents to be registered with the states in which they operate and provides uniform laws addressing their conduct. He said the legislatures of 29 states have passed the act.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press