UNC grad interviewed Gamecocks' Saunders

NCAA's Wilson could not investigate Tar Heels due to conflict of interest.

Staff writerAugust 26, 2010 

An NCAA investigator asked South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders about his friendship with North Carolina senior defensive tackle Marvin Austin, his online interaction with Austin via the social media site Twitter and a trip to Washington, D.C., according to Saunders' father.

Barry Saunders, a metro columnist for The News & Observer, said Wednesday that the NCAA's assistant director in charge of agents' activities, Marcus Wilson, interviewed his son twice this summer. Wilson, a former University of North Carolina football player, is one of seven members of the NCAA's enforcement staff who works in the area of Agent, Gambling and Amateur Activities.

The NCAA also visited Chapel Hill this summer to interview UNC football players - including Austin - as part of an investigation into allegations of impermissible contact with sports agents. NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn declined to comment on Wilson's interviews with Saunders but said Wednesday that Wilson is not involved in "a UNC investigation."

"The NCAA does not comment on current, pending or potential investigations - including which staff members may be investigating them," Osburn wrote in an e-mail response to the N&O.

Osburn also cited an NCAA conflict of interest policy that would block Wilson's potential involvement with the investigation at UNC.

According to the text provided by the NCAA:

"Any enforcement staff member who has or had a personal relationship or institutional affiliation that reasonably would result in the appearance of prejudice should refrain from participating in any manner in the processing of the involved institution's or individual's infractions case."

Rachel Newman-Baker and Chance Miller were the two NCAA investigators who interviewed an undisclosed number of UNC players on July 12 and July 13, according to university documents released as part of a public records request submitted by The N&O.

The N&O has confirmed that Austin and receiver Greg Little were two of the players interviewed. Little's father said last month that Little was asked about potential improper contact with an agent. Both Austin and Little, regular starters the last three seasons, have been practicing with the Tar Heels' second-team units while UNC prepares for its Sept. 4 opener against No. 21 LSU.

Wilson was a reserve offensive lineman at UNC for three seasons from 2000 to 2002. In addition to Weslye Saunders, Wilson interviewed Georgia receiver A.J. Green earlier this summer, according to The Associated Press.

Saunders, who played at Riverside High School in Durham, was interviewed in July and again on Aug. 10, his father said. Weslye Saunders also provided bank records and phone records to the NCAA, according to Barry Saunders. The same information was requested of the UNC players, according to a public record request.

Saunders, one of the top pro tight end prospects in college football, was suspended indefinitely by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on Tuesday. Spurrier said the suspension was not related to the NCAA investigation.

Barry Saunders said his son is ready to hear from the NCAA about its investigation and move forward with his life.

"There's a cloud hanging over these kids' heads for months, allowing them to be vilified in the media, so even when they're eventually exonerated, the perception that they did something wrong will linger," Saunders said. "I know my son hasn't taken anything from any agent, so I wish they'd leave him alone so he can concentrate on school and football, in that order."

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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