NCAA eyeing Tar Heels assistant’s ties to agent as part of Austin probe

Yahoo! Sports reports the NCAA is examining ties between North Carolina assistant coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard as part of its investigation of the school’s football program and defensive lineman Marvin Austin.

The site, citing two unnamed sources, reported Blake once worked as a vice president for Wichard’s agency, Pro Tect Management. Wichard told the site he didn’t employ the former Oklahoma head coach. Yahoo!, however, obtained a promotional brochure for Wichard’s agency in which Blake is referred to as leading Pro Tect’s football operations.

"The brochure is [from] like 1997 or whatever," Wichard told the site. "He was on the brochure for whatever, dealing with football-related situations. But it has nothing to do with anything. He was not working as a coach at that time. The relevance to me is ridiculous."

Blake operated the "Chance to Advance" football camp from 1999 to 2002 after Oklahoma fired him.

"I don’t care what the brochure says. That brochure is so old," Wichard said. "He worked with some of my players. He got Dwight Freeney ready for the combine when he was coming out. That’s kind of what the situation was. Then he went back into coaching.

"[The brochure] doesn’t prove a thing. It’s absolutely meaningless. John coached my guys in between coaching jobs."

Yahoo!, though, reported that the brochure might have prompted NCAA investigators to visit Chapel Hill a second time.

"If that’s what [the NCAA] is investigating, I think it’s just absurd," Wichard told Yahoo! "I hope – I really, truly hope – that Marvin Austin’s whole case is based on me and John Blake. I hope that for Marvin Austin’s sake. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to investigate."

North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour told Yahoo! in a statement: "NCAA representatives were on campus this week as we work with them on the review. The University of North Carolina continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA and we are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

Austin, though, may have more ties to Wichard than just Blake. Austin worked out in 2009 with Wichard client and former Tar Heel Kentwan Balmer at Proactive Sports Performance, a California training facility near Wichard’s agency. Yahoo! reported the facility’s website claims a dozen Wichard clients work out at Proactive.

Wichard said he spoke with Austin once and did nothing improper.

"I told him to go back to school when Kentwan Balmer put him on the phone in January," Wichard said. "I said go back to school and be [like] Ndamukong Suh and make some money. … I’m not even recruiting the kid. I’ve never said one word to him about the business other than football – go back to school. Now, if I wanted to represent him in January, I could have said ‘Come on out, guy. Let’s roll. Let’s make some money.’ That’s not who I am."

Wichard also told Yahoo! he assumed Balmer paid for Austin to travel to California and work out at Proactive.

The NCAA also is investigating trips Austin took to Florida. Austin has also been mentioned in NCAA investigations involving South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders and Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

Blake, Austin, Balmer and representatives of Proactive Sports did not respond to Yahoo!’s requests for comment.

Yahoo! Sports reports the NCAA is examining ties between North Carolina assistant coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard as part of its investigation of the school’s football program and defensive lineman Marvin Austin.

The site, citing two unnamed sources, reported Blake once worked as a vice president for Wichard’s agency, Pro Tect Management. Wichard told the site he didn’t employ the former Oklahoma head coach. Yahoo!, however, obtained a promotional brochure for Wichard’s agency in which Blake is referred to as leading Pro Tect’s football operations.

"The brochure is [from] like 1997 or whatever," Wichard told the site. "He was on the brochure for whatever, dealing with football-related situations. But it has nothing to do with anything. He was not working as a coach at that time. The relevance to me is ridiculous."

Blake operated the "Chance to Advance" football camp from 1999 to 2002 after Oklahoma fired him.

"I don’t care what the brochure says. That brochure is so old," Wichard said. "He worked with some of my players. He got Dwight Freeney ready for the combine when he was coming out. That’s kind of what the situation was. Then he went back into coaching.

"[The brochure] doesn’t prove a thing. It’s absolutely meaningless. John coached my guys in between coaching jobs."

Yahoo!, though, reported that the brochure might have prompted NCAA investigators to visit Chapel Hill a second time.

"If that’s what [the NCAA] is investigating, I think it’s just absurd," Wichard told Yahoo! "I hope – I really, truly hope – that Marvin Austin’s whole case is based on me and John Blake. I hope that for Marvin Austin’s sake. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to investigate."

North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour told Yahoo! in a statement: "NCAA representatives were on campus this week as we work with them on the review. The University of North Carolina continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA and we are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

Austin, though, may have more ties to Wichard than just Blake. Austin worked out in 2009 with Wichard client and former Tar Heel Kentwan Balmer at Proactive Sports Performance, a California training facility near Wichard’s agency. Yahoo! reported the facility’s website claims a dozen Wichard clients work out at Proactive.

Wichard said he spoke with Austin once and did nothing improper.

"I told him to go back to school when Kentwan Balmer put him on the phone in January," Wichard said. "I said go back to school and be [like] Ndamukong Suh and make some money. … I’m not even recruiting the kid. I’ve never said one word to him about the business other than football – go back to school. Now, if I wanted to represent him in January, I could have said ‘Come on out, guy. Let’s roll. Let’s make some money.’ That’s not who I am."

Wichard also told Yahoo! he assumed Balmer paid for Austin to travel to California and work out at Proactive.

The NCAA also is investigating trips Austin took to Florida. Austin has also been mentioned in NCAA investigations involving South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders and Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

Blake, Austin, Balmer and representatives of Proactive Sports did not respond to Yahoo!’s requests for comment.

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