UNC assistant's ties to agent at center of NCAA probe

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Less than four weeks before the start of the 2010 season, it’s uncertain whether or not All-American candidate Marvin Austin will suit up in a North Carolina uniform for a regular-season game.  After the latest investigative report from Yahoo! Sports, the uncertainty swirling around the defensive tackle is growing.

According to writers Charles Robinson and Bryan Fischer, and citing three sources close to an investigation into the Tar Heels football program, NCAA investigators have focused their attention on UNC assistant coach John Blake and his relationship with agent and long-time friend Gary Wichard.

The sources said the NCAA’s inquiry into Blake has focused on his one-time position as vice president of football operations for Pro Tect Management – an agency founded and run by Wichard since 1979. Blake is now a defensive line coach for the Tar Heels, and oversees All-ACC tackle Marvin Austin, who is also facing NCAA scrutiny.

The sources said the NCAA is investigating trips Austin took to Florida, as well as his travel and training in California in the summer of 2009, when he worked out at Proactive Sports Performance with former Tar Heel and current Wichard client Kentwan Balmer. …

A training firm for a wide array of athletes, Proactive Sports is located in Thousand Oaks, Calif., less than two miles from Pro Tect Management offices. The website for Proactive boasts 12 clients who are currently signed with Pro Tect Management, and has trained many of Wichard’s draft picks since 2005.

The tentacles of the probe that began at North Carolina has subsequently spread to South Carolina, Alabama, Pittsburgh and Georgia.  A total of nine schools — including Florida, Clemson and East Carolina — have seen NCAA investigators on their campuses since June for a variety of reasons.

 As for the UNC portion of the investigation, Wichard, as expected, has denied any impropriety between he and Blake.  In fact, Wichard hopes that the sole issue the NCAA has with Austin is his relationship with Blake.

“If the center of this controversy is my relationship with John, there’s really no controversy,” Wichard said. “If that’s what [the NCAA] is investigating, I think it’s just absurd. … I hope – I really, truly hope – that Marvin Austin’s whole case is based on me and John Blake. I hope that for Marvin Austin’s sake. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to investigate.”

Later on in the outstanding piece by Robinson and Fischer, there’s an interesting — and, on the surface, damning — exchange that takes place between the writers and Wichard.

Wichard was asked if Blake, the former Oklahoma head coach who met the agent in 1985, had ever been a Pro Tect employee.  Wichard left no gray area in his response, telling Yahoo! in no uncertain terms that “no, no, no, no… He hasn’t worked for me at all.”

When informed that Yahoo! had a Pro Tect brochure listing Blake as “Vice President/Football Operations”, Wichard likely pulled a hammy as he quickly flipped the switch to full spin mode.

“The brochure is [from] like 1997 or whatever,” Wichard said. “He was on the brochure for whatever, dealing with football-related situations. But it has nothing to do with anything. He was not working as a coach at that time. The relevance to me is ridiculous. … It doesn’t prove a thing. It’s absolutely meaningless.”

(If it was so meaningless and irrelevant, why lie when asked about it the first time?)

A couple other key points have been gleaned from the article.  First, Wichard stated that he has not spoken to the NCAA regarding the investigation.  Secondly, Wichard once again stated he has only spoken to Austin on one occasion, and that was to tell the then-junior to remain in school and not enter this past April’s NFL draft.

If the story as a whole is as Wichard has painted it, there are likely no worries on Austin’s end.  

If, which seems more realistic, it’s not?  North Carolina will have a decision to make — if the NCAA hasn’t issued any rulings or given any indications by then — before they pop the top on the 2010 season: go ahead and play Austin, knowing full well that there’s a chance he could be ruled retroactively ineligible.  Or, sit one of their best players on either side of the ball given the fact that he could be declared retroactively ineligible.

Either way, this seems to be a situation that is not going away at any point in the near future.

Turner Smiley, UNT’s leading returning WR, arrested for DWI

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For the third consecutive day, it’s time to hit the reset button on the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

The latest to trigger a move back to double zeroes is North Texas’ Turner Smiley, with the Denton Police Department’s website showing that the wide receiver has been charged with driving while intoxicated.  The arrest took place shortly before 4 a.m. CST Wednesday.

No details of what led up to the arrest and charge are available.

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A UNT spokesman first confirmed that the football program is aware of the development, and later a statement attributed to head coach Seth Littrell was released.

We are aware of the situation regarding Turner Smiley from earlier this morning and we are still in the process of collecting all the facts.  Until I have an opportunity to talk with him I will refrain from further comment.  We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes and we take situations like this very seriously.  We will take an immediate and appropriate course of action after I speak with him.

Last season, Smiley was third on the team in receptions (25) and receiving yards (255).  He’s the leading returning receiver on the Mean Green, and the only player on the roster with more than 17 receptions last season.

Iowa State TE survives being hit by car, albeit with 103 stitches

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The college football world was rocked by tragedy over the weekend, and it appears another football program narrowly averted its own heartbreak as well.

Thursday evening, the Springfield News-Leader reports, Chase Allen was hit by a vehicle outside of the Iowa State practice facility.  Allen managed to jump just prior to impact, although he landed on the car’s windshield, shattering it.

From the News-Leader:

Allen said he had a large amount of broken glass in his back, but managed to avoid hitting his head or suffering any bone injuries.

Allen popped up and was taken to an emergency room by some of his Iowa State coaches.

Allen took 103 stitches on his back after being cut by shattered windshield glass.

“The coaches were there with me in the E.R., and I’ll be cleared when the stitches heal up. (It) could have been so much worse,” Allen said.

According to an ISU official, the tight end should be at least cleared in part for the start of summer camp early next month.  It’s likely Allen will be held out of full contact, at least for the early portion of camp.

Allen came to Ames this summer after signing with the Cyclones this past February as a three-star recruit.  He was rated as the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Missouri and the No. 26 tight end in the country.  In 247Sports.com rankings, only one 2016 signee ranked higher than Allen — offensive tackle Sean Foster.

Cal to give away bobblehead of Marshawn Lynch celebrating on injury cart

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 21: Marshawn Lynch #10 of the California Golden Bears celebrates by driving a golf cart on the field after an interception by Desomond Bishop secured the 31-24 victory in overtime against the Washington Huskies on October 21, 2006 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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This is real, and it’s spectacular.

In 2006, Marshawn Lynch continued creating the legend that would ultimately morph into “Beast Mode” when, following an overtime win over Washington in which his 22-yard touchdown run proved to be the game-winner, the then-Cal running back decided the best way to commemorate the victory was by commandeering an injury cart and driving it around the Memorial Stadium turf.  Lynch’s “Ghost Ride the Whip” became legendary in the Bay Area…

… and now it’s being commemorated by the Golden Bears in bobblehead form:

That bobblehead will be handed out at the Nov. 5 game against Washington as Cal celebrates the 10th anniversary of the win. And, suffice to say, I want one. Badly.

Car accident will likely sideline Texas RB Roderick Bernard for all of 2016

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 5:  A fan waves a large Lonhorns flag during the game between the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks and the Texas Longhorns on September 5, 2009 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Warhawks 59-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Car accidents have been a sad theme in college football this past week, and, unfortunately, it has continued.  Fortunately, though, this latest one didn’t involve a fatality.

According to a tweet from Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, the high school coach of Texas’ Roderick Bernard confirmed that his former player was injured in a car accident earlier this month.  As a result, the coach expects Bernard to miss the entire 2016 season.

There were no details as to the nature of the injuries sustained by Bernard, nor has UT addressed the player’s status moving forward.

As a true freshman in 2014, Bernard served as the Longhorns’ primary kick returner before sustaining a knee injury (torn ACL)) in the fifth game that ended his season prematurely. He returned for the 2015 season after missing spring practice rehabbing the knee and played in 10 games, primarily on special teams.

This past spring, hBernard, a three-star 2014 signee, moved from wide receiver to running back.