“We’re trying to provide a disincentive,” Sanders, the bill’s sponsor, said during a news conference at McDaniel’s office to announce the bill’s filing. “We don’t think it’s a serious problem in the state right now. We’re trying to protect collegiate sports in the future.”
Sports federations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Arkansas law prohibit agents from proving student athletes goods and services of value or promises of goods and services.
Under the bill, criminal penalties would increase from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony. A civil fine that could be assessed by the attorney general would increase from $50,000 to $250,000.
The bill also would allow a parent, financial adviser or other person to be cited. Expanding the definition of who could be prosecuted would enhance the law’s effectiveness as a deterrent, said McDaniel, who worked with Sanders on the bill.
University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long and other university athletic directors provided input on the proposed changes.
“Response on this proposal has been enthusiastic,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the existing law in Arkansas is similar to laws in most other states.
“This (bill) may be one of the toughest in the country,” he said. “Arkansas is probably leading a trend, but I suspect Arkansas will not be alone this year in wanting to tighten and strengthen restrictions.”
A convicted felon loses not only the right to vote but the right to register as a sports agent, McDaniel said.
“Sports agents need to know that we in Arkansas will not tolerate them coming into our state, breaking the law and jeopardizing the future of our student athletes,” he said. “Further, we’re going to make sure that our kids aren’t used as pawns by their parents or others who think they can get away with selling their services to the highest bidder.”
Sanders said problems can arise quickly.
“We are only one unscrupulous sports agent and one impressionable 18-year-old away from some of our programs being placed under NCAA sanctions,” he said.
McDaniel said smaller universities need the new law as much as UA.
“Smaller schools have just as great a risk, but not as many people to ensure there are no minor or major infractions,” he said.