Austin hopes to play again at UNC

Lawyer confirms talks with agent

Staff WritersOctober 1, 2010 

Suspended UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin still wants to play for the Tar Heels, his lawyer said Thursday.

But it appears that Austin will face significant hurdles with the NCAA to regain his eligibility.

Christopher Lyons, Austin's Miami-based lawyer, said the NCAA has asked Austin about two trips to California, three trips to Florida and "some trips" to Austin's hometown of Washington, D.C.

The NCAA is investigating impermissible benefits provided by sports agents to Tar Heels football players. Austin also has testified in N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's investigation of possible violations by agents of the state's Uniform Athlete Agent Act.

Austin has spoken withGary Wichard, the sports agent whose friendship and financial transactions with recently resigned former North Carolina associate head coach John Blake have drawn the attention of the NCAA.

NFL Players Association rules prevent agents from talking with college players before the end of their junior seasons.

Lyons said there has been contact between Wichard and Austin, but he declined to discuss when the interactions took place or other details.

"The specifics of when, how often, the time frame, again, that information is part of the NCAA and the Secretary of State investigation. So I cannot get into those details with you," Lyons said. "But I can confirm they spoke."

Lyons participated in a teleconference with reporters Thursday to address Austin's involvement in two trips in 2009 to California that were the subject of a Yahoo Sports report.

Austin traveled to Thousand Oaks, Calif., to train at Proactive Sports Performance, where Wichard's clients train for the NFL draft. Lyons said the round-trip flights were paid for by Todd Amis, an assistant coach at Ballou High, which Austin attended in Washington, D.C.

Lyons said it's Austin's understanding that former Tar Heel teammate Kentwan Balmer, a Wichard client who now plays for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, paid for the lodging, training and other expenses.

Those payments could be considered an extra benefit by the NCAA.

"Obviously he's very disappointed he's not able to be out there on the field battling with his teammates," Lyons said. "And he's trying to be positive and hopeful that he can return to the field. That's about all I can tell you."

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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