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Legislature aims to protect student athletes

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.