SPORTS WATCH : Agents of Shame

Spotlighting the growing problem of agents who deal with student athletes, the University of Southern California has gone to court seeking unspecified damages against Robert Troy Caron for payments and gifts he allegedly gave to three USC football players. USC lawyers also have asked for a temporary restraining order against the Oxnard sports agent forbidding him to contact any Trojan athlete.

The unusual legal move punctuates the frustration of university officials and coaches as they struggle to keep their programs clean. It also underlines the need for tighter regulations on agents who try to snag undergraduate athletes before they become highly paid pros generating big fees for those who help shape their careers.

These operators can hurt both students and athletic programs. At USC, for example, Caron's alleged involvement with Shawn Walters, Israel Ifeanyi and Errick Herrin has not only led to USC suspension of the players but, justifiably, has drawn the attention of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. and the Pacific 10 Conference.

Twenty-two states have laws to regulate agents. California is one, but neither regulation nor enforcement is as strong here as it could be.

USC coach John Robinson is right when he laments that universities and student athletes are held accountable while unscrupulous agents go scot-free. California should consider measures that codify a university's ability to take legal action against agents who break the rules. Penalties should include fines and prison time.

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