Prominent NFL agent Gary Wichard and former University of North Carolina assistant football coach John Blake have engaged in multiple financial transactions since May of 2007, a four-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.
Wichard and Blake are now at the center of NCAA and North Carolina Secretary of State probes, which are seeking to determine the nature and scope of alleged agent tampering involving the football program. Those investigations have also focused on Tar Heels defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who has made at least five trips that have come under scrutiny. Two of those trips included training at a California facility less than two miles from Wichard’s agency, Pro Tect Management. Yahoo! Sports has obtained a hotel receipt from one of those trips, which lists Austin’s name above Pro Tect Management, as well as an address and Marriott Rewards number belonging to an NFL marketing agent who represents two current Pro-Tect clients.
The article focuses on financial transactions that occurred between then UNC assistant coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard. That relationship has already been under scrutiny during the NCAA investigation and the imminent release of phone records by the N&O prompted Blake to resign under the guise he had become a distraction. According to the piece Blake has received several wired transfers and a loan from Wichard's "private bank."
But three sources said documents show the relationship between Wichard and Blake also extended into the financial realm several times over the past three years. Those instances included:
• At least six wire transfers from Wichard’s private bank – The First National Bank of Long Island – to Blake.
• A $45,000 personal loan to Blake from The First National Bank of Long Island.
• A Pro Tect Management credit card issued in Blake’s name.
A source familiar with the secretary of state’s probe told Yahoo! Sports that Blake has discussed the existence of the transactions with investigators.
To sum up: That is money changing hands from an agent to an assistant football coach. The presumption is Blake would steer players to Wichard. Now, Kentwan Balmer was the only UNC/Blake player to end up with Wichard. With money changing hands the lack of efficiency is not going to matter. The assumption will be it would happen again, possibly with Marvin Austin. If that was not enough to pretty much screw UNC football for the foreseeable future, there is Austin's role which included two trips to California in 2009. One of those trips happened in early March, 2009. It was originally believe that Austin had simply stayed with Balmer in a hotel room paid for by the former Tar Heel. That was only partially true. Balmer's name was on the hotel receipt but so was Pro Tect Management, Wichard's company. The second trip actually had Austin's name on the hotel receipt with Pro Tect's name. Also listed on the receipt was the name of Faddie Mikhail, an NFL marketing agent.
Needless to say the article is in-depth, well sourced and leaves very little to the imagination as to what kind of violations UNC is now facing as a football program. The consensus among national writers and local media on Twitter is that UNC is royally screwed for years to come.
Throughout the two investigations which are now over seventy days old, THF's position has been to wait for hard evidence before drawing any firm conclusions. We have dealt with the copious flow of information from verified reports to the crush of rumors. Someone can correct me if I am wrong but we have never taken the position that UNC or anyone involved was innocent. Have we made an effort to offer explanations? Sure and to my satisfaction we have done that while considering every possibility good or bad. It has been our intent to discuss these events logically, with intellectual honesty and always with the facts before us. We are biased but I think we kept that bias balanced with reality.
All that being said, it is our belief that this report from Yahoo! constitutes hard evidence. While we have no idea what the NCAA is going to do with this information, we are pretty sure it will involve the words: probation, reduction of scholarships and ban from postseason play with a huge helping of vacated wins on top. Yes, we could contort ourselves into pretzels and make a case that Butch Davis did not know or it was just one assistant coach or player. However, we are not that flexible nor would we actually believe it. Assuming this report is true and there is no reason to believe it isn't, this is a dark day for UNC athletics.
In light of these revelations, which appear to be true, there is only one course UNC can set at this point. The first is Butch Davis can no longer be the head football coach. The football program, athletic department and by extension the University has been compromised in an incredible manner. While Davis may not have known what Blake was doing, he should have known given how long it went on. Hopefully Davis will do the honorable thing and step aside but if not the Chancellor Holden Thorp is left with little choice but to ask for his resignation or terminate him. Secondly, UNC needs to dismiss Marvin Austin immediately. Since Austin is not even practicing, this is not much of a leap but his role in this mess has been defined from the beginning. This is the final nail in his coffin. Third, once the Williams and Burney appeals are done, UNC needs to allow the hammer to fall where it may with the remaining players in limbo. Let the NCAA do its thing. Let the honor court do its thing. Accept those rulings and move on the best you can.
Based on Baddour's comments during the day on Wednesday, there is a strong possibility no one at UNC had a full grasp of this. It was known Austin traveled to California in 2009. The connection between Blake and Wichard was known but explained as more of a friendship than business relationship. However the details about financial transactions and Austin's other trip to California may not have been known. Which begs the question: Does this mean the NCAA opens up a new investigation separate from the one currently going on? It is a possibility which means this will drag on and on and on.
Midway through 2009 if I had told you in 2010 Roy Williams would end up in the NIT and UNC would be facing major violations in football, would you have believed me? Probably not.
Worst. Year. Ever.
Oh and Scott Mooneyham? Now you may call it the worst scandal in 50 years.