Lawyers for former University of North Carolina assistant coach John Blake said Monday that their client did indeed engage in multiple financial transactions with NFL agent Gary Wichard during his time with the Tar Heels.
Last week, Blake's attorneys said they believed the transactions in an Sept. 29 Yahoo! Sports report had occurred prior to Blake being hired at UNC. But after reviewing financial records over the weekend, attorney William H. Beaver II said the transactions did occur while Blake was coaching at North Carolina. Those financial ties included six wire transfers – in May 2007, October 2007, December 2007, April 2008, March 2009 and October 2009. Beaver also corrected previous statements regarding a $45,000 personal loan to Blake from Wichard's Long Island bank, and a credit card issued in Blake's name that was tied to Wichard's agency, Pro Tect Management. Beaver, of the firm GrayRobinson in Orlando, said both the loan and credit card overlapped with Blake's time at North Carolina.
"I think the truth of the matter is that we made a mistake and we want to correct it today if we can," said Wade Smith, Blake's other attorney, based in North Carolina.
Smith and Beaver once again asserted the financial transactions were not improper. In a conference call with reporters, they gave explanations for each transaction:
• The lawyers said the $45,000 loan to Blake from Wichard's Long Island bank was simply a personal loan and they assumed Blake had gone through the typical loan approval process. They said they did not know why Blake chose Wichard's Long Island bank, rather than one close to home in North Carolina.
• Beaver said the Pro Tect credit card in Blake's name was set up in 1999 or 2000 so the coach could buy "t-shirts and things of that nature" for a football camp Blake was running in California during that time. Asked why the card had remained open in Blake's name into his tenure with the Tar Heels, Beaver said Blake "provided some statements that it was simply an oversight" and that "small sums of money have been put on that card."
• As for the wire transfers, Beaver said the three transfers in 2008 and 2009 were "gifts" to Blake and aimed at paying his son's private school tuition. Beaver said he didn't want to expound on the three wire transfers in 2007, saying "That’s between Gary and John and I don't know how they necessarily characterized those."
Both Smith and Beaver once again reiterated that the financial relationship existed because of Blake's money troubles after being fired from his head coaching position at the University of Oklahoma in 1998. Beaver described a custom-built home that became a financial burden after Blake moved California, and how that stretched on into recent years.
"When he left Oklahoma, he had a large mortgage payment on a house that was completed almost contemporaneous with him being discharged at Oklahoma," Beaver said. "The mortgage payment was approximately $4,800. He thereafter moved to California and the home didn't sell. So, he had a rental payment while he was in California somewhere in the vicinity of $2,400 or $2,500 while carrying the mortgage payment. Those two payments alone came close to eating up what his income was, and therein his legal woes began, together with a couple of bad business ventures."
Yahoo! Sports reviewed real estate records for the house in question, and found that Blake purchased the custom-built home on Sept. 21, 1998, for $598,500. Loan records show that he owned the house for almost 17 months after his November 1998 firing at Oklahoma, eventually selling the property for $600,000 on April 14, 2000.
Other records reviewed by Yahoo! Sports also show that during that same time span, Blake was still collecting money from Oklahoma, thanks to the settlement reached for the remaining four years of Blake's contract with the Sooners. According to that settlement, Blake was to be paid a total of almost $610,000 from Oklahoma from the time of his firing through the end of 2001. That money included $375,000 in salary, $230,000 from a Nike deal and radio and television contracts, and nearly $5,000 for limited medical coverage.
Asked if they knew the amount of Blake's Oklahoma settlement, Beaver and Smith said they did not.
"I've never seen the documentation to that," Beaver said. "I did not represent him in that in any fashion. I have no knowledge of it whatsoever."
The lawyers also weighed in on Yahoo! Sports' recent report that University of Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus had told NCAA investigators that Blake endorsed Wichard to him in a phone conversation over the summer. The lawyers said that while Blake had been in contact with Dareus, and while Wichard was mentioned, they couldn't characterize what was said between the two.
"We don't know what that conversation was," Smith said. "It's a long, long ways away from us. I don't know what words were chosen. I don't know what words John Blake chose. I don't know what words the young man chose."
Contact Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson at email@example.com.
- North Carolina