| The Clarion-Ledger | www.clarionledger.com: www.clarionledger.com/article/20110905/NEWS/109050…Miss-
Strengthening a Mississippi law is helping to ensure athletes are protected from unscrupulous agents, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said.
"Mississippi’s new law will provide greater accountability to sports agents who wish to recruit our student athletes and will bring more responsibility to the recruitment process," he said. "Our goal is to protect not only the eligibility, but also the future of our student athletes."
This past session, state lawmakers toughened requirements of the Uniform Athletes Agents Act, which the secretary of state’s office enforces.
Hosemann said he became interested in reforming the system after NFL running back Reggie Bush had to return the Heisman Trophy he earned while playing for the University of Southern California.
Hosemann talked with officials from the NCAA, universities and colleges, professional sports leagues and sports agents – conversations aimed at making it difficult for unscrupulous agents to operate.
"If Mississippi ever wins a Heisman trophy, we want to keep it," Hosemann said.
Brackey Brett, Mississippi State University’s associate athletic director for compliance, praised the new law. "Secretary of State Hosemann and the Mississippi Legislature have really put some teeth in this act," he said. "That’s the encouraging part for us."
With the success of the Southeastern Conference in general and MSU specifically come "issues you have to manage, dealing with agents and those acting on their behalf," he said. "We live in that part of the nation where the culture of college football is extremely strong compared to other parts of the nation."
One problem has been that of "runners," who act on behalf of agents, he said. "A lot of these runners are students on our campuses."
Athletic officials eventually figure out who they are, "but there’s not a way to know up front," he said.
Under the new law, "compensation" to an athlete has been broadened to include "anything of value."
That means if a runner gives something of value to a student athlete, he or she becomes an "agent" under the law and could face civil or criminal penalties.