Agent pleads guilty to influencing UNC football players
Posted April 16
Updated April 17
Hillsborough, N.C. — Georgia sports agent Terry Watson pleaded guilty Monday to charges he had illegal contact with football players at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010.
Watson was one of five men charged under state's agent-athlete inducement law in a case that has played out over seven years – long after the players in question, their coach and even the UNC athletic director finished their tenure at the university.
After he entered his plea, prosecutors detailed the instances in which Watson provided money, airline tickets or hotel rooms to then-Tar Heels Greg Little, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn at a total value of about $20,000.
Watson's attorney, Russell Babb, said his client was motivated to plead guilty by a desire for closure.
"He just sort of got in over his head and made some really, really bad decisions," Babb said in asking for leniency in sentencing.
Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley II fined Watson $5,000 and ordered him to complete 30 months of probation, with the first 12 months under supervision.
On Monday morning, Patrick Jones, a Georgia real estate agent alleged to have served as a liaison between Watson and players, agreed to a deferred prosecution. If he stays out of trouble and does 48 hours of community service, the single charge against him will be dropped.
Jones and three others – Christopher Hawkins, Michael Wayne Johnson Jr. and Willie Barley – are accused by the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office of working for Watson to lure players through cash, gifts and trips to sign with his agency.
Watson faced the greatest number of charges – 13 for athlete-agent inducement.
Johnson's case was expected to be heard on Tuesday. Hawkins and Barley have court dates on May 15.
The criminal cases stem from an NCAA probe of improper benefits and academic misconduct within the Tar Heels' football program that began in the summer of 2010.