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New Oklahoma law allows schools to sue agents, boosters who cause NCAA sanctions

The law was passed last week.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A new law passed by the state of Oklahoma last week allows universities to file lawsuits against sports agents and boosters who subject their schools to NCAA sanctions. The Oklahoman reported that the bill was signed by the state’s governor, and it will go into effect on Nov. 1. Essentially if a booster, for instance, pays a student-athlete under the table and that school faces NCAA sanctions that include fines, courts can order that the booster has to pay damages to the university.

The same goes for sports agents, who have gotten schools in trouble for giving impermissible benefits to athletes who are still in school before.

Richard Knapp, the executive director of the University of Oklahoma's Touchdown Club, told The Oklahoman that the bill “had a chilling effect” when he read it. He added that it will will help prevent noncompliance from those who don't coordinate their support through the school or an official booster club like The Touchdown Club.

Knapp says The Touchdown Club is audited by both OU and NCAA.

The state of Georgia has a version of this Oklahoma law, as well. The first one, which was passed in 2003, is defined below by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Anyone who coerces athletes into breaking NCAA rules in specific situations. It allows colleges to sue for lost revenue caused by self-imposed disciplinary actions, including suspensions, that occur when players receive improper benefits.

That law has since been made harsher. In 2015, following Georgia running back Todd Gurley’s four-game suspension the year before, the state gave the crime that was previously a misdemeanor the possibility of jail time.

Oklahoma attorney and sports agent Kelli Masters says the new state law, even if it has a “chilling effect,” should be looked at as a positive thing.

“They're quite honestly able to get away with a lot of improper payments, improper benefits because essentially, they believe they won't be punished,” said Masters. “Seeing an actual state law that has some teeth, that could be enforceable against bad actors — that's really the only way to curtail that type of behavior.”

Universities have compliance divisions that help navigate the complex rules enacted by governing entities like the NCAA. OU booster Wallis Marsh said he calls the athletic department to make sure he stays within the rules.

“(The bill) doesn't scare me at all because it's a black eye for all of us if someone does something wrong,” said Marsh.“So many times, the people that support the university over the course of years and decades, those aren't the people getting them in trouble.”

There’s no question that for years universities have had to deal with NCAA sanctions brought on by impermissible benefits, whether those were monetary ones or not. Just this past February, Ole Miss was given a new Notice of Allegations, which includes violations pertaining to boosters paying Ole Miss recruits.

The other side to this that comes into play here is the one made evident in Steven Godfrey’s “Meet the Bagman,” which captured the secret and successful way that recruits receive money.

This new law won’t go into effect until Nov. 1, so we’ll have to wait until then to see if there are any immediate effects from the legislation.