California law could help Bush, family in dispute

Updated: May 10, 2006, 1:01 AM ET
By Joe Schad | Special to ESPN.com

A California law governing the action of sports agents could help Reggie Bush in his family's dispute with a fledgling marketing company that tried to sign the Heisman Trophy winner.

The Bush camp said it believes that New Era Sports & Entertainment, notably investors Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake and sports agent David Caravantes, violated California's Athlete Agent Act, which, if breached, could not only result in damages for a student-athlete adversely affected but also cause the forfeiture of any repayments.

Bush's representatives, who have portrayed New Era's demands of $3.2 million as a type of extortion, said they believe that the company did not follow proper filing or disclosure procedures in California and violated a provision of the act by claiming in marketing materials that Caravantes was CEO of New Era -- which Caravantes now denies.

The attorney for New Era, Brian Watkins, has said the company is owed $54,000 in unpaid rent from the Bush family, which resided in a San Diego-area home built by Michaels, as well as loans and punitive damages.

Watkins did not return calls to his office Wednesday or Thursday.

As the NCAA and Pac-10 step up the investigation, ESPN has learned that the attorney representing the family, David Cornwell, is considering a civil suit against New Era.

According to the Athlete Agent Act, a student-athlete would be presumed to have been adversely affected by the acts of the "athlete agent" if, because of those acts, he is suspended or disqualified, or suffers financial damages, or both.

If it is determined that either Bush or his family received extra benefits, the Pac-10 and/or NCAA could determine that he should have been ineligible last season.

In that case, the Bush camp would likely argue that it was because of actions of New Era. Because of violations of the act, they would contend, Bush's family would not be responsible to make repayments.

The act also states that an institution adversely affected may take civil action against the offending athlete agent, though it is not known if USC would consider such action.

Joe Schad is ESPN's national college football reporter.

Joe Schad

College Football