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UNC Under Siege Day 27: Yahoo Serious

UNC under siege - generic

No, not him.

Yahoo! Sports, which made a serious name for itself in reporting on NCAA violations by exposing the Reggie Bush-USC fiasco, has now turned its attention to current NCAA inquiry into UNC football. An article posted late Monday says the NCAA is now focusing the connection between UNC assistant coach John Blake and player agent Gary Wichard. The entire article can be found here.

The main question is does Yahoo's revelations tell us anything about what the NCAA is doing? A little. There are a few items to be gleaned which shed some light as to which rocks the NCAA might be turning over. Wichard, who spent over 90 minutes talking to Yahoo, says he and Blake are friends but says there is nothing the NCAA would find interesting about their relationship. He stresses that if the NCAA is investigating any link between him, Blake and Marvin Austin of a illicit nature it will lead to a dead end. There is a curious part of the interview where Wichard denies Blake ever worked for his sports management agency Pro Tect Management despite a brochure indicating the opposite.

Wichard is also tied to Proactive Sports Performance in California which is where Marvin Austin worked out last summer. Questions as to who paid for his trip had been raised previously in the ongoing probe by the NCAA. Wichard said former UNC player and current San Francisco 49er Kentwan Balmer may have paid for Austin's Proactive trip(and possibly other trips) which the article says could be an NCAA violation. Apparently having been teammates is not enough of a existing relationship to permit an NFL player from providing for the expenses of a former teammate still in college. If Balmer did so for Austin it could spell trouble but again that is merely speculation since no one is talking at either the NCAA or UNC.

The Yahoo! piece is significant because A) it is the first "legitimate" media source to write about something other than the general platitudes given out by UNC; and B) it suggests the probe goes deeper than the Miami party in May. On the other hand, there are no real revelations in the article that were not already in the public domain. The relationship between Blake and Wichard is well known and Yahoo goes to great lengths to connect the two when Wichard is saying all along they are friends and have worked together (albeit maybe not in the way Wichard asserts). Austin's trip to work out in California has also been known for quite some time, so it's not like we are in Woodward and Bernstein territory here.

Ultimately the real story here is the nature of the investigation which appears to be operating on some kind of self sustaining momentum at this point. As the NCAA digs into the various aspects of this case they find new loose threads to tug which possibly leads them to other loose threads. Joe Ovies pointed out on 99.9 The Fan yesterday that the concern for UNC is the scope and direction of the probe. That being said, I am not sure the scope or direction has changed all that much. This still appears to be about Austin, where did he go and who paid for it. The NCAA checking into Wichard-Balmer-Blake connection as it pertains to Austin appears to be a logical extension of the current probe. The only question that should concern UNC is whether the NCAA giving an assistant coach a hard look opens the door to a wider issue for the football program in general. That does not appear to be the case but you never know what other threads the NCAA might find to tug on. The concern is the length of the investigation which drags on longer with each new overturned rock.

It should be noted that as the investigation continues, we are going to continue to see stories like this. Yahoo! broke the USC story and therefore operates with a special credibility when it comes to uncovering these types of issues. If Yahoo! splashes a big headline on the front of their sports page, people take notice and assume(rightly or wrongly) that Yahoo! has something similar to what they reported in the Reggie Bush case. I am not sure that is the case here. For my part and for us here at THF, the NCAA not journalists or ABCers will have the final say on what happened with Marvin Austin, Greg Little and anyone else involved. Their voice is the only one that counts, the rest of it is just noise.My advice to you is treat it as such.

Doc contributed to this post.