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Lawmakers seek to protect student athletes

February 19, 2002
By: Jon Ariztimuno
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 739

JEFFERSON CITY - While amateur athletes in the Olympics are still getting public attention, Missouri legislators are trying to protect college athletes from abusive agents.

A bill passed unanimously by the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee establishes the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

The act would require all athlete agents operating in Missouri to register and be certified by the Secretary of State's Office.

The bill's sponsor -- Sen. Harry Wiggins, D-Kansas City -- calls himself a huge sport fan. Wiggins said the purpose of his bill is to protect young athletes.

Wiggins said there have been numerous complaints from athletic directors, coaches, parents and administrative officials nationwide about unscrupulous agents.

"There have been cases around the country where young athletes have been misused and their careers either threatened or ruined", he said

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the bill last year.

The organization is composed of more than 300 lawyers, judges, and law professors, appointed by each state. It proposes laws to all 50 states to establish uniform statutes on a variety of topics among the nation's states.

Wiggins says he has not heard of any opposition to the bill. "Sports is a wonderful thing, both for the athlete and for the spectator and we want to keep it honest", he said.

Under the bill, the Secretary of State would set the conditions of the agent's registration and certification.

The Secretary of State could reject a certificate registration for a variety of causes including if the applicant has caused a student athlete to be suspended for an intercollegiate athletic event.

Mary Ann Austin has been working for the past 15 years in the MU Athletic Department and is now the Director of Compliance.

"In the past fifteen years we have had one case of an agent coming in permissible contact with a student athlete," Austin said.

According to Austin, college students may require advice from an on-campus committee, which assists the student athletes on campus.

The committee-approved bill also would require the agency contract to specify certain warnings to the student-athlete when signing.

Some of these warnings state that the college athletes may lose their eligibility to compete in their sport as a student-athlete if they sign with an agent.