From parking tickets to phone records.
First up is the News and Observer's Joe Giglio who delves into John Blake's phone records focusing on calls made while Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas were in California at ProTect Management, the company run by agent Gary Wichard.
According to the phone records, Blake made calls or texts from Westlake Village, Calif.; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Los Angeles and more than 20 other California cities between June 28 and July 11 in 2009.
Thomas and Austin have said they went to the Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake Village, Calif. - where dozens of Wichard's clients have trained - before the start of UNC's training camp in August 2009.
A hotel receipt obtained by Yahoo! Sports, which financially links Austin to Wichard's agency, shows the dates of the players' stay in California as July 23 to Aug. 1.
Between July 20 and Aug. 3, Blake's phone records show that there were 20 calls or texts to Wichard's cellphone, 10 to Austin's and eight to Thomas'.
Blake was also in contact with Davis twice on July 28.
Austin said in a March 2011 interview that no one at UNC knew about the trip to California. The trip came under scrutiny during the NCAA investigation into whether players received preferential treatment, benefits or services.
"They had no reason to know," Austin said of the trip at UNC's pro day before the NFL draft on March 31. "I didn't think I had to call the university and say, 'Well, I'm going to California to go train.'"
WRAL also looked into Blake's phone records highlighting calls made during Austin's March, 2009 trip to California.
Between Feb. 23 and March 22, 2009, former UNC associate head coach John Blake's phone records show he spoke to Wichard 31 times and Austin 30. During this time frame, Austin took his first trip to California from March 7-14.
On March 6, Blake exchanged nine phone calls with Wichard and Austin. Within one hour Blake called Austin three times and then immediately called Wichard. On March 7, Blake called them a collective nine times, each time calls to and from Austin and Wichard fell within an hour of each other, at times the calls were only minutes apart.
During the course of Austin's first trip to California, Blake placed 23 calls to Wichard and Austin combined.
Wichard, Balmer and Austin claimed a coach from Austin's high school paid for the flights for each trip Austin took to California. The coach, Todd Amis, told investigators that Wichard reimbursed his expenses.
According to the warrant, Amis showed investigators a canceled check from Wichard's ProTect Management.
Blake's cellphone records show that he and Amis began exchanging calls on March 3. They spoke four times. In one instance, Blake called Wichard three minutes after he spoke to Amis.
Amis and Blake spoke twice on March 6, for a total of nine minutes the day before Austin traveled to California. On March 11, the two spoke again for 12 minutes during two phone calls.
After the conclusion of their last conversation, Blake spoke to his lawyer within four minutes and Wichard within six.
When contacted by WRAL News on Friday afternoon, Amis said he had no comment.
Amis and Blake did not speak again until March 29. During the time of Austin's first trip to California Blake spoke to his attorney 22 times.
So what does all this mean. Probably not much the NCAA hasn't already uncovered or hasn't been pieced together in various media reports before now. Giglio's report raises the most questions simply because Marvin Austin has stated in interviews no one at UNC knew he was in California training. Not that the phone calls contradict that but there is a strain on credulity to believe that Blake spoke to Austin while the latter was in California and Austin's whereabouts did not come up. When you add Blake also talked to Wichard in the same time frame the possibility Blake knew exists. Is that damaging to UNC in terms of the NCAA's probe? Probably not. Blake has been effectively isolated in what I call the "rogue" defense. UNC's position is Blake and tutor Jennifer Wiley both acted on their own in contravention to compliance policy. Since that is the case, Blake knowing Austin was in California is essentially lumped in with the rest of the former assistant coach's bad behavior. Since Austin says no one at UNC knew about the trip there could be issues if Blake lied about it to the NCAA. Again, Blake lying is on Blake, especially if UNC's general defense of itself has effectively isolated him. The only remaining question is what Blake discussed with Davis in the two phone calls between the two during the time frame. Assuming Davis was not told about Austin's whereabouts then it is nothing and even if he did, there is no proof unless Blake or Davis admit to it. It bears repeating here that his whole discussion has likely been had with the NCAA.
As for the WRAL portion, much of that has already been factored in. We know Austin took a trip to California in March, 2009 and he did not pay for it. The payment was supposedly made by Todd Amis, Austin's high school coach. Amis contends he was reimbursed by Wichard for the trip. The phone calls seem to indicate something was going on since Blake also spoke with his attorney multiple times over, often in close proximity to speaking with Wichard. Obviously the phone calls do not prove anything but their presence does supplement what we already knew about Austin's first trip to California as presented in other reports. In short, not much new on the NCAA front assuming the investigators fleshed all of this out.
The other bit of news that came out today was additional details on the parking tickets including some information where former WR Greg Little was getting his license plates from.
Several license plate numbers provided on a list of former and current UNC football players' parking tickets between March 2007 and August 2010 are linked to a car dealer currently serving time in a federal prison for money laundering. The list was among thousands of documents released Thursday as part of a public records request.
The parking tickets were issued to 12 players and 28 separate license plates.
In the university's database of parking tickets, the citations analyzed trace back to six accounts. Five of those accounts involve multiple plates.
One account, traced back to former UNC wide receiver Greg Little, has seven different tags.
The records show a vehicle registered to the Little family was cited using four different tags only one of which is a valid plate for the vehicle. One of the plates doesn't exist according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The other two plates are 30 day temporary tags issued by dealers when someone buys a car.
Although by law dealers cannot issue temporary tags to the same vehicle for consecutive months, the parking records show Little's vehicle bore temporary tags for the months of March and April 2009.
Both of the 30-day tags trace back to 919 Imports in Durham, according to the DMV.
So Greg Little has a car that had been cited using four different tags. Two of those tags were of the 30 day variety issued by a car dealership during consecutive months. One did not exist in the DMV records which begs the question how that's possible? Then there was the plate that actually belonged on the car. The juicy part of this story is the connection between the plates and a dealer now doing time in federal prison which certainly doesn't look good. The second aspect is Little switching plates on the car which I suppose was done to avoid parking tickets or out of sheer stupidity. Both is a real possibility here and Little's father has no idea why his son was playing music plates with his car. Not that I expected a different answer there.
For our purposes let's look at this issue in three sections. The first is the tag switching business which I imagine is not something the DMV looks on too kindly. At first blush, you hear four tags and think Little is somehow using four metal license plates. Not the case as it turns out. Two of the tags were for 30 days and issued in March and April of 2009. On that basis it is possible Little(or his father) bought a car, it bore 30 day tags for two months before receiving its permanent tags. Or Little knew this dealer and he was perfectly willing to hand out tags, temp or otherwise, to practically anyone. Whatever the case, Little was doing some hinky stuff with the tags on this car. Are there legal ramifications to this? I honestly have no idea and while it looks bad, switching tags on a car is not an NCAA violation.
The second aspect at work here is the aforementioned PR side. Having a player involved in an NCAA investigation connected to a car dealer who is in prison all while the player is doing shady stuff with tags on a car reflects poorly on UNC. In fact Little's whole attitude has never done UNC any favors especially now. That being said, assuming Little had nothing to do with the dealer's indiscretion, nothing was illegal in obtaining the vehicle and switching tags was the only thing he did wrong, this is more a PR issue than anything else, until proven otherwise. It does raise questions about that kind culture exits in UNC football though from what I've seen of Little he always seemed to make bad choices, this is no different.
And finally, there is the NCAA and the prospect this could be more damaging to the case in general. Not likely though it is probably not wise to make assumptions about vehicles owned by members of the UNC football program. By and large I would expect anything discovered in this phase of the public disclosure to already be out there for the UNC and NCAA to consume in their respective probes. In addition, while switching tags on a vehicle is not kosher, the NCAA has no rule against it. As long as the vehicles in question were acquired within NCAA guidelines then whatever happened with Little and the different tags is moot. Also, seeing that Little has already been declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA, anything else he does essentially gets rolled in which the rest of his illicit behavior. Yes, the NCAA would consider these additional violations and a new wrinkle to the situation but how crisp does Little need to be to satisfy the NCAA?
All things considered, I will not goes as far as to call these newest revelations "nothing." Much of this is still being fleshed out. Some of the information being uncovered by the media merely adds detail to already known accounts of the scandal. In other cases, the information reveals some behavior which may or may not mean anything to the NCAA. As with all things in this nearly year long odyssey, the greater damage has been in the PR game. That will continue to be the case until the NCAA finally offers some sort of report on just exactly what violations have occurred in the program and the penalties involved.