Sports agents would face tougher restrictions governing their contact with college athletes under a bill that passed an N.C. House committee Wednesday.
House Bill 230 revises existing regulations for sports agents who recruit college athletes as they make the jump to professional sports. It would require agents to notify college or university leaders before they contact an athlete, and agents would have to register in North Carolina instead of using a registration from another state.
The bill would increase the severity of the felony charge for agents who violate the regulations, and the maximum fine would increase from $25,000 to $250,000.
The new rules were developed by athletic directors at UNC-Chapel Hill and the secretary of state’s office, which oversees the current regulations.
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“The competition for these assets, if you will, leads people to do things that are often not in these young men’s best interest,” UNC associate athletic director Paul Pogge said at Wednesday’s legislative committee hearing. “If you follow a lot of these athletes’ careers who sign with agents who do things the wrong way, it often has horrible consequences.”
The bill drew strong opposition from former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who is representing two former UNC athletes in a lawsuit against the university. The lawsuit calls for an independent commission to scrutinize college sports programs to make sure athletes are getting proper educations.
“This legislation is the product of the NCAA’s efforts to make sure that college athletes across this country do not have the kind of representation and advice for their best interests that everybody else on a college campus has,” Orr said during the hearing.
Orr said he’s concerned that the bill expands restrictions to financial advisers. “I have grave questions about the constitutionality of criminalizing normal conduct of business agents and advisers,” he said. “The problem this legislation attempts to resolve is completely eliminated if those college athletes are permitted to have an agent or a financial adviser.”
UNC received NCAA sanctions several years ago when football star Marvin Austin received cash from a sports agent while enrolled as a student, among other impermissible benefits. The investigation led to a bowl ban, a loss of 15 scholarships over three seasons, three years' probation and a $50,000 fine. The university also had to vacate all victories from the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
The new regulations cleared the House Judiciary I Committee in a split voice vote. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ted Davis of Wilmington, now goes to the House Finance Committee.