“It typically impacts our university when a student is sanctioned or disqualified,” Lourie said. “I think it brings some very unfavorable attention and sometimes penalties to the university where that student is involved.”
That was the case last year for South Carolina’s football team, when former tight end Weslye Saunders was questioned by the NCAA about possible impermissible agent contact at a party in South Beach in May. Saunders was suspended from the team by coach Steve Spurrier in August and dismissed by athletic director Eric Hyman about a month later.
Saunders, at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, was expected to be a key weapon in South Carolina’s offense last fall but did not play a game as a senior.
The legislation was approved by a subcommittee Thursday and will move to the Senate’s full education committee.
Regulating agents is handled by the state’s Consumer Affairs department, which licenses about 70 agents a year to operate in South Carolina. However, the current law does not cover others who may act as agents, like coaches who may have received impermissible benefits to steer star athletes to an agency, or friends and family who cross the line from providing advice to agent-backed influence, said acting Consumer Affairs administrator Carri Grube Lybarker.
“This is a comprehensive, clear bill regarding our authority as to who has to comply,” she said.
The bill would make those applying for state licenses submit to national and state criminal background checks. It also would impose strict reporting regulations on universities and colleges whose athletes have contact with agents.
Grube Lybarker, the Consumer Affairs administrator, says the legislation would clarify the department’s role in investigations beyond the power to open an inquiry and subpoena witnesses.
The department will continue to rely on its contacts at South Carolina’s colleges to find out when agents have potentially broken laws, she said. “They’re the ones on the front line,” she said. “With this new legislation, it clarifies who the act applies to and will make for more productive investigations.”
Grube Lybarker would not comment on whether her department was investigating Saunders’ situation. Saunders is preparing for the NFL draft combine later this morning.