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North Carolina

Investigation of sports agents yields indictments

Posted October 1, 2013
Updated October 2, 2013

According to search warrants, Greg Little told investigators for the North Carolina Secretary of State that he got monthly payments while a player at UNC. (photo by Will Okun)

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.

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  • unc70 Oct 9, 2013

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    I strongly disagree with nearly every one of your statements and positions in these matters, with the primary exception where we agree being in regard to how long it has taken to see the first indictments in any state.

    The UAAA is well within established bounds under the Constitution. No idea what you mean by supposed "free trade rights". You also seem unaware that Congress in 2004 passed SPARTA, the Federal equivalent of the UAAA. It vests enforcement jurisdiction with the FTC, and it grants to state AGs the right to bring civil suits in Federal courts against agents in other states.

    There have been criminal charges brought in other states (e.g. Alabama) against athlete agents, though none that I know of comparable to those regarding Wiley nor as extensive as I expect regarding Terry Watson.

    http://sportslaw.uslegal.com/duties-of-sports-agents-to-athletes-and-statutory-regulation-thereof/

    BTW Your bright idea to use criminal investigations with subpoena powers to aid discovery in civil actions will get you in a lot of legal trouble.

    Also the current UAAA specifies that only the educational institution can sue the agent and the ex-student athlete for damages.

  • scousler Oct 9, 2013

    So what is the ultimate remedy for fixing this agent meddling? Instead of a state trying to secure criminal prosecutions, the fair thing to do would be for the aggrieved parties to be able to sue to collect damages.

    1) UNC should collect millions for the damage to its prestige.
    2) Butch Davis should be able to collect millions for losing his job/damage to his rep. (Especially if it can't be proved he had anything to do with agent/player contact)
    3) UNC alumni should be able to collect millions for damage to the prestige of their degree, making it more difficult to find a job
    4) Larry Fedora should be able to collect millions because the reduction in scholarships makes his job harder.

    Investigators work hard - dig up the dirt on these perps - give the civil courts all the evidence they need to sue and win big!

  • scousler Oct 9, 2013

    Has anyone ever been successfully prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced under this law? I don't think so. Just because a state passes a law, does not mean it will pass a constitutional review.

    I think the law is well intentioned - but probably violates free trade rights. Not surprising it's taken so long to actually see any indictments (which we have not seen yet), let alone actual charges. Prosecuting a violation of a local/state law, has to be weighed against a well funded challenge to it.

    Until the federal government (Congress and the Dept. of Justice) put up some regulations against the rampant actions of agents and other bad influences on college athletes, states can pass all the laws they want - agents will walk over them with virtual impunity.

  • unc70 Oct 3, 2013

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    The Uniform Athlete Agent Act already provides that an educational institution has a right of action against an athlete agent or former student athlete for damages caused by violation of the Act. Consider the amount of damages UNC has suffered being on probation.

  • williammjohnston Oct 3, 2013

    Keep uncovering! It is not about the sports agents only. It smells all the way from the dressing room to the classrooms! And do not forget the pressure and available money from the alumni! Investigate every connection and a book can be written. However, the UNC law alumni will shut it down before any of them or the other alumni are exposed. College athletics everywhere is full of rotten deals and cash. It is not just UNC,but they had better covers and thought they could not be caught!

  • StunGunn Oct 3, 2013

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    Totally agree about technology. Just think if they had social media back in the 80's and 90's. Marvin's tweet started the football mess, and the ability to check cell phone records and other electronic records certainly makes it easier for the NCAA to research infractions.

  • heelsforever Oct 2, 2013

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    The NCAA is certainly losing its teeth over the years, but the death penalty would not have happened 10 years ago or even 20 ears ago. When you see the NCAA guy who delivered the message on SMU almost collapse afterwards you know that they really didn't even want to do it to them, and they are not going to devistate another D1 program like that. Think about this though; had there been the technology available back then that exists today, you may have seen schools getting whacked a lot harder. Our Fack friends are going to throwup all over this, but odds are that much more would have been discovered back in 89/90 had there been the same ability to do research on the Internet.

  • StunGunn Oct 2, 2013

    View quoted thread



    That 30 for 30 on SMU - "The Pony Excess" - was excellent. The term "Death Penalty" is fitting, because it does kill an athletic program.

    I do have to agree that UNC would have been punished more harshly 10 years ago.

  • StunGunn Oct 2, 2013

    View quoted thread



    We're good:) I don't know why, but I take it as a compliment when someone thinks I'm a guy on this blog.

  • heelsforever Oct 2, 2013

    View quoted thread



    Watch the 30 for 30 on SMU and you'll understand that the NCAA is NEVER giving out the death penalty to a D1 school again. They knew that back then and certainly knew that 10 years ago.

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