Look! A new shiny object!
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, who has been all over the connection between former UNC assistant football coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard, is reporting that Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus told the NCAA that Blake called him and made a recommendation that Wichard represent him.
Dareus, who was the defensive most valuable player in the 2010 BCS title game, was suspended by the NCAA for the first two games of this season for receiving improper benefits from agents during offseason trips to Miami. It was during that investigation, the sources said, that Dareus told NCAA investigators Blake had spoken to him about Wichard.
The sources said Dareus was extremely cooperative while describing his relationship with Blake to investigators, explaining that the former Tar Heels assistant recruited him while he was starring at Birmingham’s Huffman High School. The sources said Dareus told NCAA investigators that Blake had maintained contact with him since that recruitment, and that during the summer Blake called both Dareus and Dareus’ friend, South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, to suggest they sign with Wichard. Both Dareus and Saunders were considered potential first-round picks entering this season.
Clearly you would have to ask what Blake would be doing calling Dareus or Saunders to make a reference for an agent, but then again, a reference for an agent is in and of itself not a violation of NCAA rules. And was it only one phone call? If so, that does not seem to be much of a high-pressure sales pitch.
Like most of what Robinson has reported about the Blake/Wichard connection so far, this story is also long on smoke and short on fire. Robinson went to great lengths to prove a business relationship between Wichard and Blake over a decade ago, and Wichard clearly lied about that relationship, but Blake working for Wichard while Blake was out of coaching is not improper.
Robinson has also reported that Blake received six wire transfers from Wichard while working for UNC, an allegation Blake's attorneys deny. But Robinson has not revealed the dates or the amounts of the transfers, which seems like it would be crucial if you are trying to establish that Blake was working as a runner for Wichard. Robinson tweeted that he is meeting with Blake's people and that he stands by his reporting; he also says he will reveal the dates of the transfers after that meeting.
Make no mistake - this is no defense of Blake or his relationship with Wichard. It's just that it would really carry so much more weight to see the kind of paper trail that Robinson provided for showing that Wichard's agency paid for Marvin Austin's hotel room last summer. Otherwise, the case can still be made for reasonable doubt as a single phone call and money transfers of unknown amounts and on unknown dates still do not establish for a fact that Blake was a runner for Wichard. Maybe Robinson will soon follow through on his Twitter pledge to reveal more information after meeting with Blake's people.