Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom weren't the first sports agents to make secret deals with college athletes. Nor were they the first to be the subject of a federal investigation.

Say hello again to Mike Trope, one-time boy wonder of the sports agency world.

In early 1986, Trope said he received a phone call from a former Nebraska football player who tipped him that two FBI agents had been on the Lincoln campus, asking questions about whether Trope had ever used or sold illegal drugs.

Trope wasn't surprised.

During his 12 years as an agent, he signed dozens of football players before the expiration of their collegiate eligibility -- a violation of NCAA rules for the players -- angering more than a few coaches, including Nebraska's Tom Osborne. Furthermore, in late 1985, Trope had publicly alleged that Nebraska had offered improper inducements to Texas Christian University running back Kenneth Davis, a client of Trope's. Osborne denied the allegation.

So now, Trope reasoned, Nebraska was getting its revenge.

On May 21, 1986, Trope said he received a letter from the General Telephone Co. of California, revealing that his home phone records for a 3 1/2-year period had been subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court in Omaha.

"My attorney called the U.S. Attorney's Office {in Omaha} and said, 'Why did you subpoena Mike Trope's telephone records?' " recalled Trope, who lives in Los Angeles. "They said, 'Well, we were doing a routine investigation into the relationships of various agents and players. There's nothing to worry about. The case has been closed.' "

Trope said he believed the investigation was prompted by comments made to federal authorities by Nebraska athletic department staffers. Osborne was unavailable for comment last week. Nebraska Athletic Director Bob Devaney said he had heard "rumors" that a grand jury was investigating Trope.

"There was some dissatisfaction with Mike Trope's dealings with athletes," Devaney said. "Coach Osborne felt he was tampering with some of the players. But we didn't start any investigation."

Trope isn't convinced

"My records were subpoenaed for a witchhunt," he said. "They were hoping my phone records would disclose a telephone call to a known gambler the day before a game in Nebraska or a telephone call to a drug dealer in the state of Nebraska two days before I may have gone to Nebraska to visit a player. Assuming they probably thought I was some evil, nefarious character, they thought they could nail me by getting some phone records to see who all these evil people were who I was supposedly talking to."

Trope said he believed the case was closed when investigators determined he did not phone any "drug dealers, gamblers or Mafia members."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into Trope.

Trope, 35, entered the sports agency business as a 21-year-old University of Southern California senior who recruited Nebraska's Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Johnny Rodgers, as his first client. He said he retired from the business last year to produce a documentary film on sports in South Africa and write a book about his experiences as an agent. Title of the book, which is due out this fall: "Necessary Roughness."