Call it the Trifecta of NCAA violations – those are among the charges against the North Carolina football program, the kind that almost always bring serious consequences.
But of course if you have been paying attention to Barking Carnival, you already were aware that North Carolina Head Coach Butch Davis should have known better than to hire John Blake as his Associate Head Football Coach.
North Carolina received its official " Notice of Allegations" from the NCAA this week, with nine major violations at the heart of the report. UNC has already felt some of the sting of retribution as 14 players missed at least one game last year (seven sat out the entire season), over some of the alleged violations.
• A tutor is accused of conducting research and writing portions of papers for two players who were on the UNC football team 2008-10.
• Jennifer Wiley, a former tutor and UNC alum, is accused of providing 142 hours of free tutoring to nine players.
• A review of an open records request from the Charlotte paper revealed that 13 football players racked $13,125 in parking fines from 2007-10. The parking tickets are not a part of the NCAA violations report. However Wiley is accused of paying over $1,700 of the fines for a player.
• Between 2009 and 2010 several players accepted over $27,000 in impermissible benefits, including free trips.
• Most of the $27,000 in illegal benefits came from agents, or former UNC players who were "wannabe" agents. Gary Wichard, a now-deceased NFL agent, and longtime friend of John Blake, gave over $5,000 to prized NFL prospect Marvin Austin.
• Todd Stewart, an agent with Pro Sports Financial supposedly gave over $5,500 to Austin as well.
• Former Tar Heel player Chris Hawkins, who had been defined as a "runner" for agents in a previous NCAA case against a Georgia football player, is named as one of several former UNC players providing benefits to current players.
• Then there is John Blake
Butch Davis first met John Blake when Blake was a student of his in a HS biology class.
Former Tar Heel assistant coach John Blake is named in three of the nine major violations in the NCAA report.
Blake has the reputation of being one helluva recruiter. It’s just that he doesn’t know when to stop. After getting top talent to Chapel Hill, Blake then served as a "runner" for agent Gary Wichard. According to the NCAA, Blake "marketed athletic abilities of student-athletes to agent Gary Wichard." Blake received $31,000 in outside income he didn’t report – the first $10,000 coming within six months of his hiring at North Carolina.
Blake also did not report $45,000 in payments from Wichard in 2007. Blake’s association with Wichard reached back almost as long in his past as his friendship with Butch Davis.
Gary Wichard served as the inspiration for the main character in "Jerry Maguire."
Again, if you have been paying attention to BC and our esteemed Scipio, you know almost as much as the NCAA about the Wichard-Blake relationship.
Wichard got his start as an agent in Norman, OK with such clients as Brian Bosworth and Keith Jackson. That’s where his friendship with Blake started, and many believe that’s where Blake started steering players towards Wichard. Both Blake and Wichard denied the connection – and then the sales brochure showed up.
Prepared for prospective clients, the brochure contains multiple pictures of players, including a handful who were selected as recently as the 2001 draft. The inner cover features large photos of both Wichard and Blake. Under Blake’s picture, his title is listed as "Vice President/Football Operations."
Blake was not the only Tar Heel to provide false or misleading information to the NCAA, or to refuse to cooperate. Marvin Austin misled investigators about who paid for trips he made. Jennifer Wiley also refused to cooperate with investigators.
There were other violations that fall under a category that also points to a program not in total control.
Failure to Adequately Monitor the Football Program
There were three specific allegations in this category:
• The University failed to monitor former player Chris Hawkins’ access to players.
• The program failed to monitor the "social networking activity of players that visibly illustrated potential amateurism violations "i.e. players putting pictures of their trips on facebook and twitter.
• Perhaps most damaging of all, the department failed to do a follow-up investigation in 2009 and 2010 when a player reported possible benefit violations within the football team.
John Blake resigned early last season - and was given a $75,000 buyout check as a parting gift. Gary Wichard passed away just this past March due to pancreatic cancer.
The NCAA letter runs 42 pages and there is one prominent name missing from its entirety.
Head Coach Butch Davis.
That may explain why there is no Lack of Institutional Control," violation among the charges.
The NCAA outlines what is considers to be "lack of institutional control," and the definition includes, "If a head coach fails to monitor the activities of assistant coaches regarding compliance." But it also states that, "...the head coach cannot be charged with the secretive activities of an assistant bent on violating NCAA rules."
It looks like North Carolina was able to sell the "Lone Gunman" theory to the NCAA.
UNC has 90 days to respond to the letter, and the school is expected to appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee on October 28th. The NCAA is fond of stating that every case is different, and that means the resolution of every case is different as well. But with the Ohio State case fresh in everyone's mind, and with USC - still smarting from their NCAA punishment -- watching on the West Coast, just how the NCAA handles UNC will be carefully scrutinized.
By then North Carolina will have played eight games on the 2011 schedule, and maybe Butch Davis will have won enough to survive whatever the NCAA hits the Tar Heels with.
Or maybe he survives simply because he is a football coach at a basketball school.