TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate’s budget chief balked at a House proposal to deregulate sports and talent agents Saturday, citing past scandals that have tarnished Florida’s universities and jeopardized athletes’ careers.
“We all read the sports page,” said Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander.
“It seems like every week there’s an athlete getting in trouble somewhere.
Most of the time that’s some unscrupulous agent trying to get advantage and represent that young man or woman down the road.”
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An agent act investigation is open in Mississippi related to a former Mississippi State University player’s allegation that Cam Newton’s father had sought payment for his son’s commitment to the Bulldogs.
The NCAA found no wrongdoing by the younger Newton, who signed with Auburn University, led the Tigers to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy.
The quarterback was drafted Thursday by the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers.
North Carolina authorities, meanwhile, are investigating agent Gary Wichard, who was suspended by the NFL, to determine if any of that state’s sports agent laws were broken in connection with players at the University of North Carolina.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, agreed to drop sports and talent agents as well as most other businesses from a House deregulation bill in the face of Alexander’s opposition.
The two are negotiating budget differences between the chambers.
Those businesses still set for deregulation include auctioneering, interior design, hair and body wrapping, rooming houses and outdoor theaters. The Senate, though, did accept reductions in a wide range of regulations.
Alexander said he got a call from University of Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley urging him to oppose deregulating sports agents.
Several former Gator football players including Ike Hilliard, Fred Taylor and Jacquez Green were bilked by sports agent William “Tank” Black, who in 2003 went to prison for five years.
Foley’s call just reinforced his views on deregulating agents, said Alexander, a Florida graduate and grandson of Ben Hill Griffin, namesake of the school’s football stadium.
“If anything I would probably strengthen the regulation to make sure anybody that’s involved in corrupting an athlete and damaging their future, if not ruining their athletic future, is very much held accountable,” the Lake Wales Republican said.
The Florida law was passed in reaction to an agent-financed shopping spree at a Tallahassee Foot Locker store for Florida State University players during the Seminoles’ 1993 national championship season.
Grimsley also agreed to back off from deregulating gyms, dance studios, travel sellers and tour services, yacht and ship brokers, water vending machines, telemarketing and movers.