The NFL Players Association has suspended California-based agent Gary Wichard for nine months, after an investigation determined he had improper contact with former University of North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
The NFLPA has also moved to revoke the certification of 22-year old University of Southern California undergraduate Teague Egan, a student agent whose involvement with Trojans running back Dillon Baxter resulted in a one-game suspension for the player.
Wichard had been under investigation by the NFLPA since a series of Yahoo! Sports reports linked his agency – Pro Tect Management – to both Austin and former UNC assistant coach John Blake. Those reports included financial ties between Wichard and Blake, as well as a hotel receipt which listed both Austin and Pro Tect Management under the guest information at a Southern California hotel in August of 2009. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Wichard repeatedly denied having improper contact with Austin. But a source with knowledge of the NFLPA's investigation said documents refuted that claim, and that Wichard and Austin had "repeated" improper contacts during the player's time at North Carolina.
The NFLPA's statement said Wichard's nine-month suspension was due to the agent "having impermissible communication with University of North Carolina player Marvin Austin at a time Austin was not eligible for the NFL Draft under the NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement." The statement said Wichard agreed to the suspension and waived his right to an appeal.
An NFLPA source told Yahoo! Sports their investigation included cooperation from both UNC and the NCAA. The source added that such cooperation included the surrendering of documentation. NFLPA officials had a conference call Friday morning with the NCAA in which facts of the case were reviewed. One body which apparently played no role in the NFLPA's investigation was the North Carolina Secretary of State, which has also been investigating Wichard for potential impropriety involving Austin. A source familiar with both the NFLPA and NCAA investigations termed involvement by the secretary of state as "virtually nonexistent."
Austin was dismissed from North Carolina's football team in October, in a sweeping round of sanctioning by the school and NCAA for illicit involvement between agents and players. The NCAA also declared wideout Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn permanently ineligible as part of the measures.
Blake, who served as assistant head coach, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, also resigned from his position at UNC in September, less than one month after a Yahoo! Sports report detailed his prior business relationship with Wichard and Pro Tect Management.
In a separate case, Egan had his agent certification revoked due to "violating numerous provisions of the NFLPA's Agent Regulations when he provided an improper benefit under NCAA rules by giving USC's Baxter a ride in his company's golf cart." The statement also said Egan "also is alleged to have placed misleading information on his agency's website about his relationship with a Southern California attorney."
A source familiar with Egan’s case said he "should have never been certified in the first place."
Contact Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org