clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ESPN: Former Player Who Bought Green's Jersey Tied to Agents at UNC

ESPN's Mark Schlabach is reporting Thursday night that a former Carolina football player is at the center of the agent prong at UNC and is the link to the A.J. Green suspension at Georgia.

Chris Hawkins, who played at UNC in the early 2000s before being dismissed from the team and finishing his career at Marshall, is the person who bought Green's game-worn Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. The sale of the jersey landed Green in hot water with the NCAA and earned him a four-game suspension because the NCAA classified Hawkins as an agent.

Hawkins, meanwhile, has vigorously denied he is an agent. He apparently befriended Green on Facebook and represented himself as a financial advisor and memorabilia collector before getting Green to sell him the jersey. Hawkins confirmed to ESPN's Joe Schad that he was the buyer and maintained that the jersey is in a frame in his basement. Hawkins also claims he "didn't come at A.J. as a marketer or an agent. I'm not an agent...I wanted the jersey because I collect jerseys."

But a source has told that the NCAA is taking a look into Hawkins' relationships with current UNC players, including Kendric Burney and Charles Brown, who Hawkins characterized as "good friends". The source says that Hawkins contacted several agents to gauge their interest in representing Carolina players.

The source said that Carolina players told the NCAA that Hawkins arranged for players to meet at least two agents. The NCAA is also looking into whether or not Hawkins facilitated trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas for players to meet with agents.

One of the agents named by the players, Peter Schaffer of All Pro Sports & Entertainment in Denver, told ESPN that he knew Hawkins and had discussed UNC players with him. Schaffer said, "Chris Hawkins was asked by a couple of players to vet potential agents." Schaffer represents two former Tar Heels, Hakeem Nicks and Richard Quinn.

Hawkins has also been frequently seen around players facilities in Chapel Hill, often with his old roommate, former UNC running back Willie Parker, and that Hawkins has represented himself as Parker's "manager".

While none of this is particularly good news, at least it makes a modicum of sense. Chris Hawkins' name has been lurking in the shadows of this investigation the whole time, and he would seem to be a more likely candidate to be a runner or an agent's front man that John Blake, who just happened to be friends with an agent (who represented exactly one player of Blake's from UNC).

Schaffer claims "Hawkins has never asked him (Schaffer) to do anything to violate NCAA rules. 'He hasn't asked me for money and he hasn't asked me to do anything illegal. In my dealings with him, he's done nothing improper.'" For his part, Hawkins says "I know many agents and I help my friends sort through the process. It's not just one. I do lots of research."

Could Chris Hawkins be the linchpin in the agent prong? He wouldn't be the first guy to try and be an "adviser" and make a buck off guys who will be playing at the next level. The interesting part is that the NCAA apparently "classified" Hawkins as an agent, instead of saying he "is" an agent. I wish I could find the link, but Someone early in the investigation from the NC Secretary of State's office  at the National Football Post said it is hard to prosecute non-agents (i.e. financial advisors, as Hawkins claims to be) under the UAAA. That comment seems particularly appropriate here and now. (Also, the NFP reported Kendric Burney was flown to Atlanta to meet with agents, which appears to be confirmed by ESPN's source)

There is also a nebulous area about how and when agents are allowed to contact players, as there is a permissible contact window for players eligible to be drafted. Obviously if Hawkins was paying for travel or somehow providing benefits, that's a clear violation but I'm sure the NCAA and UNC would have to work hard to separate the permissible from the impermissible at this point. Regardless, the next few days should be interesting as this news makes the rounds.

I just can't help but think of Hal Holbrook's admonition about dealing with the FBI to Tom Cruise in the movie "The Firm", and how it relates to college players and agents: "They invite you to break the law. Doesn't cost them anything, but it costs you everything."