While the academic cheating scandal has curiously moved to the back burner, the agent prong of UNC-CH’s national nightmare is getting a lot of press lately.
Most recently, Sports Illustrated has published this article explaining some of the various facets of the UNC-CH mess. Notice that the national press is all over this story while the local folks seem to have little interest.
I have to go get ready to tailgate so I can’t do a lot of analysis, but here are some very “interesting” quotes from the article:
In the summer of 2009, Tar Heels defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas traveled to Proactive Sports Performance in Thousand Oaks, Calif., a training facility less than two miles from agent Gary Wichard‘s offices, and where Wichard’s clients routinely work out. Kentwan Balmer paid for the trip, Thomas told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer. Balmer, who declined to say whether he did so in an interview with The Associated Press last month, is a former North Carolina player and a Wichard client, and thus the trip has come under NCAA scrutiny.
The North Carolina case shined a light on another group of hopeful profiteers: college coaches. That college coaches recruit for agents is a systematic problem that runs deeper than most fans realize. As agents describe it, the most common occurrence is that a former NFL player goes into college coaching and then promotes his old agent to his players. If that agent lands one of those players, the college coach gets either a flat fee or a percentage of the player’s rookie contract. It is one of the most effective ways to recruit, agents say, because players often see their position coaches as trusted advisors.
The NCAA has long been aware of this problem (at a recent NCAA regional rules seminar, one of the highlighted topics for discussion was “Agents compensating assistant and position coaches to recruit student-athletes”). The challenge is determining when a coach’s words of wisdom cross over into solicitation.
John Blake, North Carolina’s defensive line coach until he resigned on Sept. 5, once worked for Wichard’s company, Pro Tect Management. At numerous stops during Blake’s college coaching career — from Oklahoma to Mississippi State to Nebraska to North Carolina — his players have ultimately signed with Wichard. Yet only recently did this relationship raise eyebrows at the NCAA. (Wichard has denied that Blake helped him procure clients. Blake couldn’t be reached for comment.)
Ongoing NCAA investigations at Georgia and North Carolina include examinations of the relationship that former Tar Heels defensive back Chris Hawkins has had with players. ESPN reported that Hawkins shopped players to different agents, making him, as one person close to the investigation termed it, “an equal-opportunity” runner.