California state Senate looks at protecting student-athletes from dishonest agents

Former sports agent Josh Luchs, left, with State Senator Kevin de León
Former sports agent Josh Luchs, left, with State Senator Kevin de León
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Any fan of USC or UCLA sports knows about the dark world of agents and college athletes. A state senator from Los Angeles wants to put the clamps on agents that approach college athletes with gifts or money. That was the focus of a Thursday subcommittee hearing at the L.A. Coliseum.

The Coliseum boardroom where the hearing took place is just yards away from the field where running back Reggie Bush helped the USC Trojans dominate college football. State Sen.

Kevin de León said USC and its student athletes are still paying for the scandal that involved Bush and illegal gifts from prospective business partners and agents. "These agents who represented or engaged with Reggie Bush got off scot-free," de León said.

Sports agents often do, according to many people who testified – including former sports agent Josh Luchs. He testified that he used to pay players, even when he knew some didn’t have a future in the pros.

"I had an occasion at UCLA where I had a player who burst onto the scene and then got injured," Luchs explained. "I was giving him money on a monthly basis, and he continued to take that money and granted me access to the rest of the players there on the team, bringing me to parties, events, you name it. I knew how to get to whoever I wanted to, and I was able to utilize that relationship – all the while knowing he wasn’t going to be a pro."

De León is pushing a bill in Sacramento that would toughen enforcement against unscrupulous agents.

Former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma is president of the National College Players Association. He says going after agents alone doesn’t attack the root of the problem. "The fact that players don’t receive enough to survive from day to day, and they’ve witnessed this huge disparity based on their talents."

Huma says athletic scholarships don’t cover all the costs of attending college – so an agent’s gifts are tempting to many student-athletes.