In 1997, a substantial push was made by a variety of entities and individuals involved in athletics to codify legislation to protect student-athletes and institutions of higher learning from unscrupulous athlete-agents. After significant review and revisions, in 2000, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws introduced the Uniform Athlete Agent Act (“Agent Act”). Subsequently, thirty-nine (39) states adopted the Agent Act and three (3) states currently have existing non-Agent Act legislation (California, Michigan, and Ohio). Additionally, the federal government codified the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act (“SPARTA”) in 2004.
In light of the investigations that have ensued relating to extravagant parties and improper benefits allegedly provided to student-athletes of ACC and SEC member institutions, several media outlets, including espn.com, have conducted in-depth analysis of the penalties handed down to agents who have violated the Agent Act. According to espn.com, twenty-four (24) of the forty-two (42) states with agent-related legislation have never penalized an agent and have cited a lack of funds for the same. Additionally, the federal government has never issued a penalty for a violation of SPARTA. On the other hand, some states, like Texas, take the Agent Act very seriously and have penalized thirty-one (31) agents in the last two years.
Now, North Carolina is taking an interest in the Agent Act and subpoenaed University of North Carolina (“UNC”) defensive tackle, Marvin Austin, to testify before the Department of the Secretary of State. According to espn.com, Marvin Austin began his testimony on Friday, September 17, 2010, relating to trips to Florida parties and athletic training sessions conducted in California. It appears the North Carolina Secretary of State intends to determine whether violations of the North Carolina Agent Act have occurred and whether penalties are necessary. In light of such testimony, it will be interesting to follow the progression of the interest of states in protecting student-athletes and institutions of higher learning from the alleged improper acts of athlete-agents.
It is also noteworthy that UNC is currently beginning investigated by the NCAA for alleged improper benefits provided to student-athletes and academic misconduct. This may result in UNC bringing a civil lawsuit for damages against the alleged violating athlete-agent and/or Marvin Austin in accordance with the statutory cause of action set forth in the Agent Act.