A S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs official said Wednesday the agency responsible for enforcing state laws governing sports agents hopes to wrap up a preliminary investigation into allegations involving South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders and potentially others "probably before the end of the month."
Staff attorney Carri Grube Lybarker launched the probe Monday, one day after North Myrtle Beach-based football agent Joel Turner in The Post and Courier blasted "every state agency that has failed to act in any regard on these allegations (regarding Saunders)."
Turner, who has 14 National Football League players as clients, specifically requested that Grube Lybarker or S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster "knock on the door at the University of South Carolina."
The Department of Consumer Affairs initially will survey the 70 agents registered in South Carolina to ask about "inappropriate activity," Grube Lybarker said Wednesday from her Columbia office.
Saunders is among a number of players at North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Georgia who are the subject of investigations conducted by the NCAA and their respective schools into possible impermissible activity with agents.
NCAA rules prevent players from taking money or other inducements from agents. South Carolina is one of 42 states with laws restricting
contact with college athletes to registered agents, a law that includes text messages and Facebook inquiries.
"We are asking agents if they know of any inappropriate activity, or if they are involved in any inappropriate activity to self-report," Grube Lybarker said.
Turner on Wednesday said he welcomes "any action by a South Carolina law enforcement agency." But he said the Department of Consumer Affairs plan to survey agents does not go far enough.
"Instead of sending letters out to agents expecting cooperation they should simply go to the player in question," Turner said Wednesday. "They should request all the information pertinent to an investigation, such as his bank records, phone records and text messages. That alone would prove or not whether an agent has had illegal or illicit contact. That's about as easy as it gets."
South Carolina law says agents who offer money or other inducements to college football players are subject to a $100,000 fine for each violation. But The State newspaper in Columbia reported Tuesday that since S.C. lawmakers replaced a weaker version of the agent law in 2004, there has been just one formal inquiry and that the investigation resulted in a Florida agent paying $60,000 for operating in South Carolina without registering in the state.
The Associated Press this week reported the results of a survey showing that 24 of the 42 states with sports agent laws have taken no disciplinary or criminal action against agents.
Turner last week told The Post and Courer he believes the percentage of law-abiding football agents working to recruit players in the state is "probably into the single digits."
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or (843) 937-5593.