From the beginning of the NCAA's vision quest to root out illegal contact with nefarious agents, the most inescapable name has been North Carolina's Marvin Austin. It was Austin's Twitter feed that apparently alerted the NCAA in the first place to a South Beach party (or parties) involving an untold throng of potential draft picks from everywhere over Memorial Day weekend. Anonymous sources in the corner of implicated Alabama lineman Marcell Dareus went to great lengths last week to paint Austin as the ringleader of the trip, and the NCAA reportedly wanted to know why he was spotted driving a car owned by ex-UNC teammate (and current San Francisco 49er) Kentwan Balmer.
But the suspicious largesse doesn't have to be confined to nightlife and bling. According to the Sports Business Journal, the NCAA is also interested to know exactly who paid for Austin to travel and training at a California complex with ties to Balmer and his agent, 25-year vet Gary Wichard:
Sources told SportsBusiness Journal that one of the things the NCAA is investigating is who paid for Austin's training at Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Proactive Sports Performance, a training facility where all of Wichard's rookie clients have trained for the NFL draft in the last five years. Austin is listed as a client onProactive Sports' website. ...
Wichard has been quoted as saying that he has not traveled to North Carolina nor recruited Austin. "I've never talked to him about representing him. I've never gone down there [to North Carolina] and I never will," Wichard told The Charlotte Observer earlier this month.
He told SBJ last week that he has seen Austin training at Proactive Sports and that he did speak to him on the phone last year. "I spoke to him on the phone when he was thinking about coming out last year," Wichard said. "Kentwan put him on the phone with me. I told him to go back to college like Ndamukong Suh and get picked as high as you can."
Such sound, selfless advice. The NCAA is also rumored to have interviewed Carolina assistant coach John Blake, the Tar Heels' top recruiter and a close friend of Wichard's who Wichard said has occasionally worked out clients at Proactive between coaching jobs. For the record, Proactive's website lists more than a dozen current or recent college football players among its former clients, including Arizona State quarterback Samson Szakacsy; ex-Colorado running back Darrell Scott and his cousin, Colorado-turned-UCLA receiver Josh Smith; UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince; current Notre Damers Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph; and two of their former Irish teammates, Golden Tate (since drafted by the Seattle Seahawks) and Joseph Fauria (another transfer to UCLA). Notre Dame is reportedly sending the facility a cease and desist letter to have its players' named removed from the site.
The SBJ writes that pro agents have long suspected an impeding NCAA crusade, and for the Association to pull out all the stops to "make an example of someone." Apparently USC, done in by rank amateurs in the agent game, wasn't a big enough head for the stake. But if the NCAA's investigative brigade can get its hands on a real player in amateur corruption, somebody certified through the NFL's Player's Association, that will certainly do as a warning.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.