Investigation of sports agents yields indictments
Posted October 1, 2013
Updated October 2, 2013
An Orange County grand jury heard Monday from an agent for the North Carolina Secretary of State who has been investigating alleged violations of a state law that prohibits tampering with amateur college athletes. As a result, the grand jury handed down criminal indictments which remain under seal.
Special Agent A. H. Jones has been involved in the investigation of sports agents in North Carolina. She was named as the investigator in a search warrant unsealed last month. It showed former University of North Carolina football player Greg Little told investigators that Terry Watson of the Watson Sports Agency out of Georgia provided him with a monthly cash allowance of $2,200 in addition to travel expenses and other payments.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, who would not confirm any indictments, has said in the past that he believes North Carolina would be the first state to pursue criminal charges linked to agent behavior.
The investigation stems from the NCAA’s finding that members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football team had accepted gifts, trips and cash from agents.
The North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agent Act requires that agents be registered with the Secretary of State, and lays out conduct that will run agents afoul of the law, including providing “anything of value” to a student-athlete not under contract or initiating contact with a student-athlete.
Sports agents who violate the law can be charged with a felony and may also be subject to civil penalties, including a fine of up to $25,000 and paying damages to a school that loses eligible student-athletes.
The NCAA began investigating the UNC football program in July 2010, ultimately finding nine major violations including dealings between agents and student-athletes that included improper benefits.
Fourteen players missed some or all of the games played in the 2010 season. The NCAA declared two of them, Little and defensive end Robert Quinn, permanently ineligible, and UNC kicked a third, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, off the team.
The NCAA found that seven players received $27,097.38 in benefits “from individuals, some of whom trigger NCAA agent legislation.”
The NCAA violations ultimately cost head coach Butch Davis his job and led Dick Baddour to step away from his athletic director’s position.
The agent connections were just one aspect of the wrong-doing found in Chapel Hill. An internal UNC review also found problems with academic integrity.
The publication of a research paper by football player Michael McAdoo, who used it as evidence in trying to get back his eligibility, made evident that athletes were getting improper academic assistance from a tutor, and that some courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies were not being taught as advertised.
The UNC report showed Julius Nyang’oro, then the chairman of that department, oversaw independent study classes with minimal professor-student interaction and grades for 59 students in nine courses between 2007-09 were submitted with forged signatures of professors.
Woodall and the SBI are investigating whether Nyang’oro, who has since retired, and his administrator, Deborah Crowder, defrauded UNC-Chapel Hill by collecting pay for classes that instructors didn't teach.