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Unsealed Warrants Add Details to UNC Agent Violations

Newly unsealed warrants show how the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office is taking on one of the first major criminal investigations into agent conduct:

“Austin stated he received cash from Terry Watson,” an affidavit for an Oct. 23 search warrant states. “Austin made the following statement: ‘Terry Watson was a guy who gave me money,’ Austin stated on one occasion Watson had given him $2,000 in cash.” Agents contend that cash was mailed to Austin at his home.

The warrants focus on Watson, a sports agent who, according to the search warrants, contacted UNC athletes 382 times by phone in 2009 and 2010.

The information means little for North Carolina’s athletic department. The NCAA is unlikely to reopen an investigation because Marvin Austin received $12,000 to $15,000 in impermissible benefits, rather than $10,000 to $13,000. That assumes the $2,000 received is in addition to the $13,000 in benefits the NCAA found in UNC’s infractions report (Austin is “student-athlete 5”). And contact between an agent and a student-athlete is allowed, so long as there is not an agreement for the agent to represent the athlete and the agent does not provide any benefits to athletes.

But it is notable that the state of North Carolina continues to pursue the case against Watson, and may have gone after Gary Wichard, another agent involved in the case, had he not died in March 2011. It is even more notable given that UNC is not the most sympathetic of institutions to fight for at the moment and that agent laws are being criticized as much as ever as protecting the schools rather than the athletes.

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