- Joe Schad, College Football
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Agent Gary Wichard transferred money to former North Carolina assistant coach John Blake six times after December 2006, but three of the payments were for private-school tuition for Blake's son, who is Wichard's godson, according to an attorney for Blake.
Blake resigned in September after his friendship with Wichard came into question amid an NCAA review.
William Beaver of GrayRobinson in Orlando also said that a $45,000 loan Blake received after his dismissal from Oklahoma was a direct loan from a bank, not a personal loan from California-based Wichard. Beaver said all banks go through an approval process and he couldn't say for sure if Wichard's connection to the bank helped Blake secure a loan.
In addition, Blake and Alabama defensive star Marcel Dareus did have contact, Beaver said. But according to the attorney, Dareus called Blake because they had developed a personal relationship during his college recruitment and Dareus' mother was ill.
An Alabama source told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel on Sunday that Blake's calls to Dareus were at least in part to lobby him to consider employing Wichard.
But according to the attorney, Dareus told Blake that he was being besieged by calls from agents and was concerned. Blake told Dareus that he needed to focus on his mother and worry about agents later. Blake allegedly told Dareus that he had a good relationship with Wichard but that it was something to worry about in the future.
Beaver said to his knowledge Wichard did not speak directly with Dareus and that "it was surely not a recruiting call" between Blake and Dareus.
Blake's attorneys, including Wade Smith of North Carolina, said the money transfers between Wichard and Blake should be characterized as "gifts or loans" but could not say how to classify the transactions outside of the tuition payments. They stressed Blake and Wichard's close relationship and said Blake had financial hardships. The attorneys did acknowledge that the $45,000 loan took place after Blake began his employment at North Carolina.
Dareus reported information about the conversations to the NCAA when it interviewed him during its investigation. The relationship between Dareus and Blake dates to when Blake recruited Dareus out of Birmingham to come to North Carolina.
Dareus, the NCAA determined, received $1,787 in airfare, hotel, transportation and meals to attend a party last spring in Miami Beach. He paid that amount to charity and the NCAA suspended him for the first two games of the season.
The NCAA expanded its investigation of Blake, a former employee of Wichard, and his financial relationship with the agent. He resigned from the university shortly thereafter.
Yahoo Sports has reported that Wichard's ties with Blake are so deep that the agent's firm issued Blake a credit card. Blake's attorneys said their client has received loans from Wichard but that he never steered players to the agent in return.
One of Blake's attorneys, Beaver, said that no matter what Dareus told the NCAA or how they interpreted it, "[Blake] has provided statements that he has never attempted to funnel, coerce or push a player." The attorneys said that includes any allegations involving former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, who they said Blake did not have contact with since high school recruitment.
On Monday, North Carolina coach Butch Davis again offered an apology for how the NCAA probe of agent-related benefits and possible academic misconduct involving a tutor has "tainted" the football program.
Davis said he is "sorry" he trusted Blake.
Joe Schad is a college football reporter or ESPN. Information from ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Agent Gary Wichard transferred money to former North Carolina assistant John Blake at least three times after December 2006, but the payments were for private-school tuition for Blake's son, Wichard's godson, according to an attorney.