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MBJ Editorial: Mississippi has a Heisman to hold on to

While we understand what Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann meant when he said, “If Mississippi ever wins a Heisman trophy, we want to keep it,” there likely are many out there who don’t.

Hosemann made the comments in connection with a story, saying a new law could help protect student athletes from sports agents who engage in unethical practices.

Mississippi lawmakers this year toughened requirements of the Uniform Athletes Agents Act, which is enforced by the secretary of state’s office.

However, Mississippi already has a Heisman. Felix “Doc” Blanchard, a 1942 graduate of Bay St. Louis’ St. Stanislaus, went on to the U.S. Military Academy where he was named an All-American three times. As a junior, Blanchard won the 1945 Heisman Trophy.

After his playing days at West Point, Blanchard served for 25 years in the United States Air Force where he flew in missions during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1971.

We are sure Hosemann meant that is a Mississippi university were to have a player win a Heisman Trophy, we wouldn’t want it taken away in a sports agent scandal. We give him the benefit of the doubt, but it should be noted that Blanchard’s Heisman Trophy is in a sealed case on the campus of St. Stanislaus. There is even a story that suggests a couple of students at SSC ran back in the student union to make sure the trophy was safe before evacuating for Hurricane Katrina.

Hosemann should be lauded for his efforts on this front to attempt to protect student athletes from unscrupulous agents.

The new law brings more accountability to the recruiting process by putting tighter regulations on the relationships between athletes and agents, Hosemann said. Those found guilty of breaking the new law can receive a sentence of up to two years in prison, and the secretary of state has the power to impose a fine of up to $25,000

The law says compensation to an athlete has been broadened to include “anything of value.” Officials say one problem has been with “runners” who act as go-betweens for athletes and agents. Some of the runners are other students on college campuses.

If a runner gives something of value to a student athlete, he or she becomes an “agent” under the law and could face civil or criminal penalties.

The new law says agents have to notify the college or university before soliciting that athlete, a relative or “anyone living in the same place.”

Agents also have to register with the secretary of state before they sign a student athlete to a contract. In the past, they could wait up to seven days to register with the secretary of state.

The weaknesses in Mississippi’s previous law became evident in the pay-for-play scandal involving Auburn quarterback and subsequent NFL No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton.

The NCAA ruled Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State player, had assisted Newton’s father in a failed scheme to get Cam Newton to sign with MSU. Rogers is not a registered agent in Mississippi.

All of this is great, but let’s not forget one of our greatest memories in the history of Mississippi sports.

You can read more about Doc Blanchard on the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum website.

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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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