Agents identified in UNC probe

Rosenhaus Sports denies allegations of misdeeds by its employee.

Staff WritersOctober 23, 2010 

Three people associated with agents or financial advisers provided benefits, including hotel rooms, meals and access to a pool party, to UNC football players who broke NCAA rules, new records show.

The documents, released Friday afternoon after weeks of requests from The News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer, were heavily redacted by UNC lawyers who cited a federal privacy law that keeps student educational records private. As a result, the 19 pages do not specifically detail which players received which benefits.

Still, the records and interviews shed more light on the crisis that has surrounded UNC's football program since the summer, when concerns about agents providing benefits to players - which is forbidden - brought NCAA investigators to Chapel Hill.

Since then, the university has acknowledged academic misconduct violations as well. In all, 14 players have missed some or all of the season. The program's second-in-command, top recruiter and associate head coach John Blake, resigned amid questions about receiving money from an agent. Head coach Butch Davis has said he won't resign.

And three players are no longer eligible to play in college: Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn, all projected to be selected in next spring's NFL draft. Last week, the NCAA said that Little and Quinn had lied to its investigators and that the players took trips, jewelry and more worth a combined $10,000. The NCAA banned them from college play after receiving reports from UNC.

UNC said Austin accepted more than $10,000 in benefits and kicked him out of the program without submitting information about him to the NCAA.

But until Friday, the NCAA and UNC had declined to say who provided the benefits. UNC switched course after continued efforts by The N&O and the Observer to force their release.

The NCAA still refuses to release records on the agents, saying it doesn't have jurisdiction over them. The N.C. Secretary of State's office enforces a state agent-registration law, and the state agency has acknowledged opening a criminal probe that could lead to felony charges.

3 agents named

The new documents appear to include five letters to the NCAA that report violations of NCAA rules.

In addition to naming three people who provided benefits, the documents also mention four meetings at local restaurants in which dinners were paid for by financial advisers. But it does not name the advisers.

A UNC spokeswoman said she could not clarify that.

"We have not submitted any documents to the NCAA that reference agents or prospective agents other than those named in the attached letters," vice chancellor Nancy Davis said.

The documents say that agent-related benefits were provided by:

Chris Hawkins, a former UNC football player who the documents say is considered a "runner" for agents or advisers. A runner is someone who befriends players and helps recruit them for others.

Hawkins is mentioned in three of the violation letters to the NCAA as providing "minimal" benefits, though a separate letter describes more extensive involvement.

The additional document is a letter to Hawkins from UNC athletic director Dick Baddour that says UNC is "taking formal action to disassociate" Hawkins from the program, banning him from contact with any athletes for five years.

Hawkins said in an interview that he was only trying to help friends and players who were being bombarded by agents and others, and that he was not paid by anyone to secure players.

Todd Stewart, who is believed to be from Washington, D.C.

Stewart is described in one of the NCAA violation letters as a prospective agent because of "self-identified ties with a financial advising firm."

The documents say that Stewart booked and paid for hotel rooms. After a lengthy section that is blanked out, the documents say "it has been determined that these costs" were paid by Stewart.

Stewart could not be reached on Friday. Stewart has told ESPN that he was contacted by the NCAA, and he acknowledged that he was at a party with players in South Florida this year.

"There were parties and they were popular," Stewart told ESPN. "But it wasn't some conspiracy to get players for sports agents."

It's not clear if he was asked by ESPN whether he provided benefits to players.

Michael Katz, director of marketing and client services for Rosenhaus Sports, which has the largest number of NFL clients.

Two of the NCAA violation letters say Katz provided wristbands that granted access to a pool party. The documents do not say more about that, including specifically whether that action triggers a violation. Previous reports have shown Austin and Little at a South Florida pool party.

Katz could not immediately be reached. The agency where he works is owned by brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus. Jason Rosenhaus, the vice chairman of the agency, took information from a reporter on the situation Friday but declined to comment.

Agency chairman Drew Rosenhaus told the Sports Business Journal that his employee assured him the allegations were false.

"At no time did my employee provide any benefits to any college player," Rosenhaus said in a quote posted on a Sports Business Journal reporter's Twitter account.

Katz's involvement marks at least the second time the agency had contact with a North Carolina player during the offseason.

Davis, in his fourth year as head coach, recently confirmed in an interview for The N&O and Observer that he became aware while on vacation that Drew Rosenhaus was at Kenan Stadium meeting with a player and the meeting was broken up.

"The individual that told me that said that he asked the player to go ahead and leave, and that he asked Drew Rosenhaus to leave," Davis said.

Davis declined to identify the player or who intervened in the contact, which occurred in June.

It would not have been against NCAA rules for Rosenhaus to meet with the player because UNC says the player was a rising senior. That means it wouldn't have violated NFL Players Association rules, either.

Rosenhaus is registered with the N.C. Secretary of State as an athlete agent.

Impermissible benefits

Besides the troubles surrounding Austin, Little and Quinn, two other players - Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams - have been suspended for accepting trips.

Burney took trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas and California, and Williams made two trips to California. Although both players paid for part of their travel expenses, the NCAA ruled that there were other benefits, and they had to make donations to charity.

Williams has said former UNC defensive back Omar Brown - who's not known to be associated with a sports agent - provided the impermissible benefits that led to his four-game suspension.

Burney's father, Tyrone Burney, has said Kendric's association with Hawkins led to his suspension. Burney initially was suspended for six games but remains withheld from a seventh game, to be played today at Miami.

Burney's Twitter page identified current defensive back Charles Brown as traveling to Atlanta with Burney and Hawkins, and that running back Shaun Draughn met them when they arrived.

Brown is out for the season.

Draughn was withheld from one game.

Two other players - Jonathan Smith and Brian Gupton - are out for the season, but it's unclear whether their violations were related to academics or agents.

The other players who have missed games are: Michael McAdoo, who has yet to play; Ryan Houston, who has been cleared after missing five games and might sit out the rest of the season without losing a year of eligibility, commonly known as redshirting; Linwan Euwell, who was held out of five games; Da'Norris Searcy, who missed three games; and Devon Ramsay, who played in the first four games but has been withheld since.

The documents include the letter from Baddour to Hawkins, dated the week before the NCAA banned Little and Quinn.

Hawkins played defensive back for the Tar Heels from 2001 to 2003 and was dismissed from the program in April 2004 for a team rule violation. Hawkins has said he became friendly with Tar Heels players while visiting the team's weight room with Willie Parker, who was a teammate of Hawkins' at UNC and went on to win two Super Bowls as a Pittsburgh Steelers running back.

The documents outline four ways that Baddour says Hawkins' "recent involvement with our student-athletes has led to the suspension of some ... and placed them at risk of losing their NCAA eligibility."

Baddour wrote that UNC developed information indicating Hawkins "may have" provided impermissible benefits; arranged for meetings with agents; offered to purchase gear and memorabilia from players; and stated to agents and financial advisers that he represented players.

Hawkins is also connected to Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, who was suspended for four games for selling a bowl game jersey to Hawkins for $1,000.

For at least five years, UNC will not allow him to have any athletic benefit or privilege that is not available to the general public.

The school has prohibited Hawkins from communicating with current or prospective athletes, and from accessing the Kenan Football Center or other athletic facilities at any time.

Staff researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report. or 919-829-4840

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