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Report: Ex-UNC coach Blake in frequent communication with agent

John Blake “abruptly” “resigned” his post as North Carolina’s associate head coach three days ago, but the questions and fallout from his three years in Chapel Hill continues to cast a shadow over the football program.

According to a report in the Raleigh News & Observer with the web headline of “Former UNC coach had agent on speed dial”, Blake and friend/sports agent Gary Wichard communicated either via phone calls or texts 61 times in the 61 days leading up to an announcement Jan. 4 by six draft-eligible Tar Heels -- five of them from the defensive side of the ball -- that they were remaining in school for their senior year.

Blake was also UNC’s defensive line coach.

It should be noted that there is no NCAA rule that prohibits contact between a coach -- assistant or otherwise -- and an agent. What is prohibited, however, is a coach accepting payment from an agent. When asked if Blake was taking money from agents while working as a college coach, a Raleigh lawyer who has been assisting Blake proffered a very curious version of the old “no comment” standby.

“That’s a complicated question. I should not deal with that ... while the investigations are ongoing,” Wade Smith told the News & Observer.

It’s those types of complicated questions the NCAA has been attempting to answer since word first became public in July that they were investigating multiple player’s relationships with unnamed agents, including several members of the UNC football program. A Yahoo! Sports report in early August first brought up Blake and Wichard in connection to the investigation, stating that the NCAA had focused a portion of their probe on the relationship between the two.

A brochure from Pro Tect Management, Wichard’s company, from the late nineties/early 2000’s showed Blake was listed as Vice President/Football Operations. Wichard initially denied that Blake worked for the company, then admitted Blake “was on the brochure for whatever, dealing with football-related situations.”

Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that, the Charolotte Observer writes, Blake’s resumé he provided the University of North Carolina before he was hired as associate head football coach did not list his affiliation with Pro Tect Management.

There’s also the matter of former Tar Heel defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer. Another former Tar Heel lineman, San Diego’s Cam Thomas, admitted that Balmer paid for a trip he and then-teammate Marvin Austin took to California in 2009 to work out at Proactive Sports Performance while the two were still in school.

Proactive Sports Performance is located two miles from Wichard’s Pro Tect offices and has trained many of Wichard’s draft picks since 2005. Balmer, now with the Seattle Seahawks, is represented by Wichard.

Athletic director Dick Baddour told the paper that he learned of the stream of communications between Blake and Wichard last week.

“I did talk with Coach Blake about them,” Baddour said. “I cannot discuss the content of my discussion with him, but I can say that he offered explanations for them.”

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp was asked about the total of 152 communications between Blake and Wichard between Oct. 31, 2009, through June 22, 2010. Thorp indicated that “all things being equal, it’s probably better not to have a close relationship with a sports agent if you’re an NCAA coach.”

If it’s found that Blake accepted money from an agent while coaching at UNC, the paper writes, he could be prosecuted as an unregistered runner under the state’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act. The office of the North Carolina Secretary of State has launched its own investigation into potential violations, and has already reportedly subpoenaed Austin in connection to the probe.