Cam Thomas Says Balmer Footed Bill For His And Austin's Trip To CA

Alternate headline: Could everyone not currently under Dick Baddour's gag order please tell the media what you know right now so we can get it all out there at once?

Unfortunately that headline would probably break my Twitter feed.

Via Joe Giglio at ACC Now who talked to former UNC player Cam Thomas about the 2009 trip Marvin Austin took to ProActive Sports in CA. According to Thomas he was also on the trip and it was paid for by former Heel and current S.F. 49er Kentwan Balmer.

Thomas, a rookie defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers, did not provide financial details, or the dates, but said he and Austin worked out at the Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake Village, Calif. in the summer before the 2009 season.

Reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon, Thomas, who started all 13 games for UNC in the 2009 season, said he and Austin took the trip together and "'Twan paid for [the trip]." Thomas, the Chargers' fifth-round pick, then declined further comment.

Balmer, Thomas and Austin were teammates at UNC for the 2007 season and each played defensive tackle. Their position coach was John Blake, UNC's recruiting coordinator and associate head coach. Austin and Blake's relationship with California-based agent Gary Wichard has become a part of the NCAA investigation into the UNC football program, Wichard said last Thursday.

If this is true and really there is no reason to doubt Cam Thomas' word on the issue, it presents a fairly significant issue. Up until now we were all assuming any alleged violations committed by Austin or Greg Little occurred after the 2009 season meaning no actual games were in danger. Now this revelation has popped about Austin and Thomas taking a trip prior to the 2009 season, there is the possibility the NCAA could do unholy things to UNC's 8-5 record.

Giglio spoke with UNC compliance officer Amy Herman who took the sock out of her mouth long enough to speak hypothetically about how the NCAA would handle a violation of the "preferential treatment" rule. The answer is no one knows because punishments are not spelled out. Basically the NCAA will interpret the situation and rule accordingly. If I were a betting man, I would wager that no one realized a former teammate(and obviously a friend) paying for something constituted an NCAA violation. The NCAA does make exceptions for players receiving benefits where a prior relationship is in place and their position as an athlete is not used to induce the benefit. In this case, the fact the relationship was formed on the football team and the benefit was afforded because Austin and Thomas were football players means it is preferential in nature.

The other side of this is whether Balmer footing the bill for Austin and Thomas constitutes him acting as a runner for Gary Wichard or whether John Blake is steering clients in Wichard's direction. That is the crux of the NCAA's focus here though I am sure they will take a vested interest in what Thomas has to say. As best as I can tell Thomas is not a client of Wichard and Thomas is also on record a few weeks ago saying he was never offered money by an agent. You could take that to mean both he and Austin were unaware taking money from a former teammate was an issue or they failed to check with the compliance office on the matter.

So toss this log onto the fire, keep roasting your marshmallows and hope the NCAA comes along shortly to put the darn thing out.

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