As competition intensifies among agents for college athletes, states, such as Louisiana, are moving to stricter laws.
Witness the path of House Bill 1408, which sailed through the House 98-2 last month on its way to Senate for debate. Sponsored by Rep. William Daniel, D-Baton Rouge, the bill introduces several significant wrinkles to a 1999 agent law already on the books. It would:
• Require agents to contact the head coach or athletic director one week before trying to communicate with the athlete, and get written authorization from the coach or AD before contacting the athlete
• Require school officials to schedule a meeting with the athlete within 72 hours of being contacted by the agent to explain what the athlete can expect in dealing with an agent;
• Ban agents from using intermediaries – known as runners – to contact an athlete’s parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends to better secure the athlete as a client;
• Lower the threshold of what constitutes an inducement from a something valued at $500 to “any conceivable thing of the slightest value;” and
• Make it easier for athletes and schools to sue agents by confirming the existence of a contract between the athlete and the school. If the athlete is declared ineligible to play by the NCAA or another sanctioning body, or if the school is investigated or disciplined as a result of the agent’s conduct, the school or athlete may sue the agent.
Agents would continue to be required to register in Louisiana before contacting a prospective client, or face of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
The bill got a huge push when LSU Head Football Coach Nick Saban, whose team won the national championship earlier this year, testified for passage of the bill. Saban’s interest was said to be sparked by the fact that three of his underclassmen were contacted by agents, with two of them ultimately opting for the NFL draft.
“What Louisiana is doing is similar to what is going on in the rest of the country,” said Bill Saum, NCAA Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism. “Of course, what we would like to see is consistency throughout the country.
The vehicle for that, according to Saum, is Uniform Athlete Agent Act. He added that 29 states have embraced the UAAA. Louisiana is not one of them. Even if they are going to have their own law, Saum says he would like to see Louisiana embrace “reciprocity.” Agents should be able to register in one state and have that carry to the next, according to Saum. “Until that happens, it will create a roadblock for getting agents registered.”
Agent Ralph Cindrich of Cindrich and Company believes the direction the states are headed in will ultimately lead to litigation.
“The states are going to get into a position of trying to legislate agents so much that they will be challenged in court,” said Cindrich. “For example, the idea of having to give a week’s notice is ridiculous.”