By The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says a new law could help protect student athletes from sports agents who engage in unethical practices.
The Clarion-Ledger reports that Mississippi lawmakers this year toughened requirements of the Uniform Athletes Agents Act, which is enforced by the secretary of state’s office.
“Mississippi’s new law will provide greater accountability to sports agents who wish to recruit our student athletes and will bring more responsibility to the recruitment process,” Hosemann said in a news release. “Our goal is to protect not only the eligibility, but also the future of our student athletes.”
The new law brings more accountability to the recruiting process by putting tighter regulations on the relationships between athletes and agents, Hosemann said. Those found guilty of breaking the new law can receive a sentence of up to two years in prison, and the secretary of state has the power to impose a fine of up to $25,000
Hosemann said he became interested in reforming the system after NFL running back Reggie Bush had to return the Heisman Trophy he earned while playing for the University of Southern California.
Hosemann talked with officials from the NCAA, universities and colleges, professional sports leagues and sports agents about making it difficult for unscrupulous agents to operate.
“If Mississippi ever wins a Heisman trophy, we want to keep it,” Hosemann said.
The law says compensation to an athlete has been broadened to include “anything of value.” Officials say one problem has been with “runners” who act as go-betweens for athletes and agents. Some of the runners are other students on college campuses.
If a runner gives something of value to a student athlete, he or she becomes an “agent” under the law and could face civil or criminal penalties.
The new law says agents have to notify the college or university before soliciting that athlete, a relative or “anyone living in the same place.”
Agents also have to register with the secretary of state before they sign a student athlete to a contract. In the past, they could wait up to seven days to register with the secretary of state.
The weaknesses in Mississippi’s previous law became evident in the pay-for-play scandal involving Auburn quarterback and subsequent NFL No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton.
The NCAA ruled Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player, had assisted Newton’s father in a failed scheme to get Cam Newton to sign with MSU. Rogers is not a registered agent in Mississippi.