Congress has moved to impose tougher penalties on unethical sports agents who lure student-athletes into contracts that compromise their amateur standing and damage the reputations of their schools.

The legislation that passed by voice vote in the Senate late Thursday and now goes to President Bush for his signature was promoted by Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.), the former star Nebraska football coach.

"As a former coach, I witnessed time and again sports agents illegally using cash and gifts to recruit student-athletes," Osborne said in a statement yesterday. "This unethical behavior on behalf of the sports agents threatens the athletes' eligibility and harms the integrity of college sports."

The NCAA has rules, and some states have standards, for sports agents, but Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), principal author of the bill, said that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous agents from "aggressively pursuing these kids anyway, possibly ruining a chance to compete on the college level and get a degree."

The legislation would bar agents from recruiting student-athletes by giving false or misleading information or providing anything of value to the athlete or his family before entering into a contract.

The agent must also disclose in writing that the athlete may lose NCAA eligibility after signing an agency contract and requires the athlete and the agent to notify the school's athletic director that the athlete has signed a contract so the school does not play a now-ineligible athlete in a game.

-- Associated Press