Gary Wichard to talk to state officials
RALEIGH, N.C. -- NFL agent Gary Wichard will talk with investigators from the North Carolina Secretary of State's office as they review whether the state's sports agent laws were broken.
His attorney Howard Silber said Friday that Wichard is scheduled to be interviewed next week, though he wouldn't specify exactly when.
Elaine Marshall's office launched its probe in July, shortly after the NCAA began investigating the football program at North Carolina. The NCAA review initially focused on agent-related benefits, but expanded to include possible academic violations involving a tutor.
The financial arrangement between Gary Wichard and Coach Blake is separate and apart. It has nothing to do with the referral of players.” -- Howard Silber, attorney for NFL agent Gary Wichard
Wichard's longtime friendship with former Tar Heels assistant coach John Blake has been a key part of the investigations, including loans from Wichard that Blake's attorneys have described as one friend helping another during financial difficulties.
Silber said there was "no impropriety" in the transactions.
"Mr. Wichard is fully cooperating and made himself available for an interview with both the NCAA and is scheduled to meet with the secretary of state next week voluntarily," Silber said. "And he has volunteered to produce documents to dispel any of these false accusations about his relationship with John Blake."
In addition, Silber -- who also represents former North Carolina player and current Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer -- said Balmer spoke with Marshall's office for about two hours Tuesday. Balmer is a Wichard client.
Investigators have already interviewed Blake and defensive tackle Marvin Austin, an NFL prospect whose trips to California and Miami have also been scrutinized in the case. Balmer, a Wichard client, reportedly paid the lodging expenses for Austin and former Tar Heels teammate Cam Thomas to travel across the country to train last year.
George Jeter, a spokesman for Marshall, declined to comment Friday night, citing the confidentiality of the investigation.
On Thursday, Blake's attorneys confirmed their client had received loans for an unspecified sum of money until about three years ago, but said there was never an arrangement for Blake to direct players to Wichard once they left for the NFL. The school learned of the financial transactions -- first reported by Yahoo! Sports -- when Blake met Aug. 31 with NCAA investigators and he resigned about a week later.
Yahoo! Sports reported that there were at least six wire transfers from Wichard's bank to Blake and a credit card issued in Blake's name tied to Wichard's agency, Pro Tect Management. Blake's attorneys said the account was opened to help Blake pay for expenses for running a football camp in California years ago when he was between coaching jobs.
Silber, based in California, said the card was opened in 1999 after Blake was fired as head coach at Oklahoma and was closed in 2006.
"The financial arrangement between Gary Wichard and Coach Blake is separate and apart," Silber said. "It has nothing to do with the referral of players."
Silber said Wichard was scheduled to talk with the NCAA last week, but the NCAA canceled the interview. He wouldn't say if another interview has been scheduled.
In an e-mail late Friday, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the interview was canceled because Wichard wouldn't sign a confidentiality agreement.
"The NCAA continues to be interested in securing an interview with Mr. Wichard," Osburn said.
Earlier Friday, the NCAA denied an appeal to shorten suspensions for North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams. Burney was suspended six games and Williams four for receiving improper benefits connected to several trips, including to California to visit a former North Carolina player.
Burney also had trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas linked to former college player Chris Hawkins, whom the NCAA has said qualifies as an agent. Hawkins also paid $1,000 for the jersey of Georgia receiver A.J. Green, a transaction that resulted in Green's four-game suspension.
The NCAA also returned to campus this week to participate in the school-led investigation into the possible academic violations. School spokesman Steve Kirschner said an investigator was on campus Wednesday and Thursday.
Most of the academic cases are being handled by the school's student judicial system.
The status of nine players remains in question due to the ongoing probe. That list includes Austin -- who has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules -- and receiver Greg Little, the two players who were the initial focus of NCAA investigators.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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