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ESPN looking into Mel Kiper’s relationship with Gary Wichard

The Sports Illustrated tell-all article on the sports agent industry has already created a problem for one of its subjects.

ESPN tells Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal that they are looking into allegations that agent Gary Wichard and Mel Kiper’s relationship is a little too cozy.

“We just learned of the story today and are looking into it,” ESPN’s statement read.

In the excellent article by George Dohrmonn, former sports agent Josh Luchs recalls a story where Wichard arranged for Kiper to call during a meeting in 2000 with Stanford defensive lineman Willie Howard.

“Gary and I were talking to Willie in Gary’s office when Gary’s phone rang, and he put it on speakerphone,” Luchs recalls. “‘Viper, how are you?’ Gary said. That’s what he called Mel, Viper or Vipe. ‘Viper, I’m sitting here with the best defensive lineman in college football. Do you know who that is?’

‘You must be with Willie Howard,’ Mel said.”

This isn’t the first time there have been questions raised about Kiper’s relationships with Wichard. PFT wrote an article back in April about Kiper’s ranking of Jimmy Clausen as his top prospect at quarterback. Clausen was a Wichard client.

In an article for the Washington Post, Kiper admitted that he’s friends with many agents but denied any favoritism.

“I don’t shill for anybody,” Kiper said.

Kiper denied Luch’s version of the Howard story to SI, saying there wasn’t a prearranged call. He says he has similar conversations with players for many agents. Howard, on the other hand, said Kiper called, confirming Luch’s story.

Whether Kiper’s evaluations are unbiased or not, the story presents a major problem for the draft guru. ESPN must consider whether they want one of their analysts helping agent friends land clients.