Published June 21, 2011
North Carolina has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA outlining numerous "potential major violations" in the football program, including unethical conduct by a former assistant coach as well as failure to adequately monitor the conduct of a former and current players.
The notice, released Tuesday evening, accuses former associate head coach John Blake of providing "false and misleading information" to both NCAA investigators and the school regarding his relationship with late NFL agent Gary Wichard. That included a failure to report $31,500 in outside income from Wichard's firm, Pro Tect Management LLC, from May 2007 to October 2009.
The NCAA said Blake worked to steer players to Wichard once they reached the NFL. Blake's attorneys have previously characterized the transactions as loans between friends during tough financial times.
The notice states seven players received more than $27,000 in improper benefits in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the NCAA alleged unethical conduct by former tutor Jennifer Wiley for refusing to cooperate with the investigation and providing about $3,500 worth of extra benefits in travel, parking expenses and free tutoring to players.
The school was also cited for failing to monitor "social media activity" of the team in 2010 as well as the conduct of former player Chris Hawkins. Hawkins was previously connected to trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas made by cornerback Kendric Burney, and also paid $1,000 for the jersey of Georgia's A.J. Green — a transaction that resulted in Green's four-game suspension because the NCAA said Hawkins qualified as an agent. Hawkins had hung around the program and players in recent years, but has since been told to stay away.
The school has 90 days to respond to the notice and is scheduled to appear before the NCAA infractions committee in Indianapolis on Oct. 28.
"I deeply regret that Carolina is in this position," chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement. "We made mistakes, and we have to face that. ... We will emerge with a stronger athletics program, and we will restore confidence in Carolina football."
William H. Beaver and Wade Smith, attorneys for Blake, declined to comment Tuesday night because they had yet to read the notice of allegations. Joseph B. Cheshire, an attorney for Wiley, also declined to comment.
The NCAA first visited the Chapel Hill campus last summer after former defensive tackle Marvin Austin tweeted about a trip to Miami. The initial focus soon expanded from improper benefits to academic violations involving Wiley, who refused to be interviewed and has since graduated.
Wichard died in March from diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Less than two weeks earlier, investigators with the North Carolina Secretary of State's offices issued a search warrant for financial records connected to Wichard and Pro Tect as part of a separate probe into whether the state's sports agent laws were broken.
Blake resigned in September, the day after the Tar Heels lost to LSU in the season opener.
The notice states that Blake refused to provide investigators with tax records from 2005-10 as well as information about a $45,000 deposit in December 2007 from Wichard's bank.
He also denied in interviews that he had worked for Pro Tect even though the firm was listed as a previous employer on a credit report from last July and that he had once been listed as "vice president of football operations" on a Pro Tect brochure, according to the notice.
Fourteen players missed at least one game last season due to the investigation. Seven were ruled out for the entire year, while an eighth was cleared at midseason but decided to redshirt.
While players' names were redacted in the notice, the NCAA said one of the players received more than $13,507.47 in benefits — with more than $5,000 tied to Wichard — another received $5,642.92 and a third received $5,040.20.
Those amounts are consistent with the figures provided by the school in October when it dismissed Austin and announced that the NCAA declared defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Greg Little "permanently ineligible."
At the time, the school said Quinn had received two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations to Miami for benefits worth $5,642, while Little accepted diamond earrings as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and a pair of trips to Miami for benefits worth $4,952.
Athletic director Dick Baddour said at the time the decision to dismiss Austin came after the NCAA's preliminary determination that he had received between $10,000 and $13,000 in improper benefits.
All three players returned to campus in March for the school's workouts for pro scouts and apologized for their actions. Quinn went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick, while Austin and Little were second-rounders.