Yahoo Is Quite Interested in John Blake

Judging by the initial Twitter buzz, I came into the Yahoo! Sports article on the Marvin Austin investigation expecting some big revelations. Instead, I mostly got a rehash of the SportsBusiness Journal piece I linked to before my vacation; the investigation is particularly interested in how Marvin Austin got to Thousand Oaks, California to work out at the Proactive Sports training facility. That facility is used a lot by agent Gary Wichard, close friend of defensive line oach John Blake and current representative of Kentwan Balmer.

The authors do get a lot more quotes from Wichard on the record, mostly him angrily denying trying to recruit Austin or Greg Little, or that there's any sort of financial relationship between him and John Blake. There is, however, a brochure from Wichard's Pro Tect Management firm – folks are apparently not to creative with names in this line of work – that lists Blake as Vice President of Football Operations during the period he was out of coaching. Wichard seems to be pretty infuriated at the appearance of impropriety, and a charitable reading between the lines could conclude that Vice President of Football Operations was just a fancy title for the guy who, to quote Wichard, only "worked with some of my players. He got Dwight Freeney ready for the combine when he was coming out. That's kind of what the situation was. Then he went back into coaching." The tone does back up the other part of the SBJ article, however, that a lot of agents are both angry and terrified at this investigation.

None of that, however, will exculpate Austin, and today also had J.P. Giglio quoting Cam Thomas as saying that Balmer paid for him and Austin to fly to Thousand Oaks in the summer of '09. Unfortunately, the NCAA compliance officer he talked to was very vague on the penalty of even a generalized version of events. It's against the bylaws to receive "preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual's athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation," but I'm not sure where the line is between Balmer treating them because of their shared history on the football team versus their reputation or skill. The fact that Thomas is apparently not represented by Wichard or his agency does seem to indicate it wasn't an agent junket, just Balmer being generous.

Furthermore, you can't help but go back to this Herald-Sun article that asked Thomas and E.J. Wilson about agent activity:

"As far as I know, while I was there in that program, none of that was going on," Wilson said. "So all of this stuff is actually kind of a surprise to me, because while I was there, none of that stuff was going on."

[...]

Wilson said UNC helped prepare him for dealing with agents -- including hosting an agent day on April 10 -- and made it clear what was and was not illegal. Wilson said he avoided the distraction of agents until after the Tar Heels' bowl game and didn't sign with an agent until January.

Also, Steve Spurrier is not a fan of John Blake. Take that with whatever credence you afford Steve Spurrier.

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