The latest regulatory trend concerns states pushing to “strengthen” their athlete agent laws. This push is probably based on increased media attention paid to student-athletes receiving money and other benefits from sports agents. The article that was likely read by every Sponsor of a piece of legislation to enhance athlete agents laws is Sports Illustrated’s Confessions of an agent. It named 30 former college football players who supposedly received money and/or other benefits from agents.
I applaud the state legislators like Rep. David J. Sanders in Arkansas and those in the state of Oregon who care enough about the problem of inducements offered to student-athletes by sports agents, to propose changes within their states. However, I think that these individuals have mostly missed the boat, which could end up harming true worthwhile reforms. In a vast majority of states, athlete agent laws already exist. In the states where they do not yet exist, legislators need to propose legislation based on the Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA). But if states with existing athlete agent statutes think that new legislation with harsher punishments for violators will serve as a noble deterrent to unscrupulous agents who will do almost anything to gain an edge over the competition for highly touted rookie players, they are certainly mistaken. A deterrent is a state putting a sports agent in jail for ignoring its existing laws (see: Alabama). A non-deterrent is beefing up an existing statute while failing to do something about a top tight end who had to sit out his senior season in 2010 (see: South Carolina).
South Carolina Sen. Joel Lourie is another legislator who really has fantastic intentions with regards to the protection of student-athletes and institutions of higher education within his state. However, he has fallen into the same trap as many other congressmen throughout the country. He believes that tougher athlete agent laws in his state will help regulate illegal contact between athletes and agents. But most states already have the tools to regulate the illegal conduct under consideration. Why wait? Why not enforce the laws currently on the books?
Let it be known that I have nothing against the new legislation making its way through state legislatures. However, the mere suggestion that the passing of new legislation will serve as some deterrent is a complete joke. The only way agents will be deterred from ignoring laws is to actually enforce them. Regulation is controlling through rules and regulations, not creating additional rules and regulations.