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Tennessee Tech receiver improves, still in coma

Drew Hixon, the Tennessee Tech receiver who was seriously injured in a game with USF on Sept. 11, is breathing on his own after being taken off a ventilator Thursday and his condition upgraded from critical to serious at St. Joseph's Hospital, hospital spokesman Will Darnall said.

Hixon, 22, who sustained an unspecified brain injury when two defenders tackled him after he caught a pass at midfield, remains in a medically induced coma. Thursday's news, however, is his first marked improvement since his injury.

Hixon's father Stan, an assistant with the Redskins in the NFL, told the Associated Press that doctors believe Hixon is improving but the recovery process will take a long time. Doctors have told Hixon's family the senior could regain consciousness at any time.

A gathering of students and faculty at Tennessee Tech drew a crowd of about 1,000 to Tucker Stadium in Cookeville on Thursday afternoon. The crowd formed a 7, Hixon's jersey number, on the field, and an aerial photograph was taken. It will be sent to the Hixons as a gesture of the support and thoughts from the campus.

Bush signs agents bill

WASHINGTON _ President Bush signed a law establishing tougher penalties for unethical agents.

The bill stiffens penalties for agents who lure student-athletes into contracts that compromise their amateur standing and damage the reputations of their schools.

The legislation, which passed by voice vote in the Senate earlier this month, was promoted by Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., the former Nebraska coach.

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

The law bars 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 also must disclose in writing that the athlete might lose NCAA eligibility after signing an agency contract.

And the law 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 allow a now-ineligible athlete to play.

Violators would face actions by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

Fines of up to $11,000 a day could be levied for each offense.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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