On July 6, 2010, SportsAgentBlog.com became the first media entity to discuss the tie between agent Gary Wichard and former UNC associate head coach John Blake, after it was known that the NCAA was investigating the University of North Carolina football program regarding possible rules violations surrounding gifts/benefits received by players from sports agents. SportsBusiness Journal later found that Blake is still considered a best friend of Wichard, and Yahoo! Sports discovered that John Blake used to be featured in Wichard’s company brochure that he sent to prospective clients.
When I first brought up the Blake/Wichard tie, my source wanted me to write more. At that point-in-time, it would have been too risky to do so. All that could be proved was that the two had been friends and “business partners” in the past and might still have had a relationship. Now that Marvin Austin, the defensive tackle that Blake used to coach, has been subpoenaed by investigators from the office of North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, much more could come out about Blake’s connections with Wichard. If that occurs, it would not be surprising that Blake gets slapped with his own subpoena. Then it will be a free-for-all.
Let’s not forget that John Blake is one of the best at recruiting student-athletes to play for his program and then getting them prepared for the NFL. But if he has been taking his players like Kentwan Balmer, to Gary Wichard, and even possibly receiving kickbacks for the referrals based on the NFL contracts they sign, he could be in major trouble. I am told that Blake might have used throw-away cell phones in addition to his normal methods of communication during his time coaching at North Carolina. Being outside of the world of investigatory relations, I have no idea of how one would even begin to look into such a claim like that.
Back to Balmer. How would you construe Gary Wichard’s quote in the News and Observer from July 17, when he said,
“I’ve never talked to him [Marvin Austin] about representing him. I’ve never gone down there, and I never will.”
There = UNC. If Wichard had never gone down to UNC to recruit Austin or any other UNC player, that would imply that he also never went to the school to recruit Kentwan Balmer. If that is the case, then how did Wichard sign Balmer? How did Wichard meet Balmer, considering that Wichard is all the way on the West Coast? Who took Balmer to meet him? Was Blake somehow involved there, as well? Did he make the trip out west with Balmer?
There are many unanswered questions that may be solved depending on the depth of forthcoming investigations. Various parties are already taking protective measures. UNC and Blake have cut ties after Blake’s resignation and Blake has hired multiple prominent lawyers.