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A FREE MARKET SOLUTION TO THE AGENT ISSUE IN COLLEGE SPORTS

The football coach at one of my alma maters, The University of Alabama, Nick Saban, is upset and rightly so:  There are too many contacts between his players and sports agents. Florida coach Urban Meyer agrees (it’s about the only thing the rival coaches do agree on!):

“We wear them out around here about that stuff. Everything’s coming back positive about the investigation. I’m not sure it’s finished or not. But I think we do everything by the book, and I’d be disappointed if I found something that we don’t because we educate them and we meet with the families and we do everything we can.”

I think an idea worthy of consideration is proposed by Jim Tanner from the prestigious law firm of Williams and Connolly LLP.  Tanner suggests taking the agent issue out of the shadows and have a “controlled access” between agents and players, limits on meals, and disclosure requirements.  Tanner also recommends a new regulation on agent-athlete relations and players being paid a stipend to better resist temptation.

I agree about the controlled access.  I am not sure about the regulation.  It might be helpful for there to be a NCAA eligibility rule that all agent contracts have a right of rescission (say ten days) where the contract can be voided without losing eligibility provided any funds to the athlete or family are returned.  There should be disclosure.

Banning contacts with agents does exactly what Tanner fears – the ethical agents are at a competitive disadvantage:

Many coaches and schools have a blanket prohibition on all athlete-agent contact until the season is over. But a total ban leads to a perverse result: The most ethical agents abide by the rules and stay away, while unscrupulous agents operate in the shadows, currying favor with student-athletes and their families in violation of school policies.

The ultimate solution may end up being some sort of recognition that big-time college sports is really a business and the players ought not be in effect unpaid interns for the pros.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood “Sandy” Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia’s first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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