Texas lawmakers crack down on unethical agents

Texas lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to a crackdown

on unethical sports agents that could lead to long prison

terms.

Texas is one of about 40 states that already have laws

regulating sports agents, but supporters say the new Texas measure

would be the toughest in the country.

If Gov. Rick Perry signs it into law, agents who lure college

athletes into contracts with improper benefits and gifts that cost

an athlete their NCAA eligibility could face felony charges and up

to 10 years in prison.

A review last year by The Associated Press found that even

though most states try to regulate sports agents, most had not

revoked or suspended a single license or invoked penalties of any

sort. Neither had the Federal Trade Commission, which was given

oversight authority about seven years ago.

Texas was one of the few states that consistently enforced the

law, assessing more than $17,000 in fines over two years.

The bill by Rep. Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat, requires

agents to post a $50,000 bond with the state and be certified with

a national professional sports association. Agents would be banned

from providing anything of value to the athlete or their family

before the athlete completes their eligibility.

The bill also requires individuals, not corporations, to

register as agents, and includes so-called ”runners” who are

sometimes hired by agents to contact athletes or their families on

their behalf.

Dutton says the bill does not affect situations where athletes

choose to turn professional before their eligibility expires, so

long as the agent did not have improper contact before the athlete

makes an official decision. For example, Texas basketball players

Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph all left school

early to enter the NBA draft.

Last year, the NCAA hit Southern California with a two-year bowl

ban, four years’ probation, loss of scholarships and other

sanctions for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie

Bush dating to the Trojans’ 2004 national championship season.

The NCAA said Bush accepted lavish gifts from sports marketers

hoping to sign him.