A South Florida jeweler who has acknowledged recruiting future NFL draft picks provided diamond jewelry that led to a UNC-Chapel Hill football player's banishment from college sports, new records show.
Anthony "A.J." Machado of Cutler Bay, Fla., "provided impermissible benefits to at least one of our student-athletes by giving jewelry to him," UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said in a letter to Machado obtained by The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer.
It's not known which player received jewelry from Machado.
Machado, who is known as a major provider of high-end jewelry to pro football players, could not be reached Thursday.
He did not return two telephone messages left at AJ's Jewelry, his business 20 miles south of Miami, while an assistant said he was at the office. The assistant later said Machado had then left for the day, and the messages seeking comment would be forwarded to him.
The new document provides another glimpse into the world that surrounds elite college players who are projected to be high draft picks and receive big-money contracts. The NCAA has been investigating UNC-CH since summer about allegations related to improper benefits provided to players.
Coaches and others across the country have brought more attention to the issue, describing how agents, financial planners and other types of runners swarm around players, who are forbidden to accept benefits because of their athletic abilities.
The NCAA this week said it has formed a wide-ranging group of NFL executives, agents, state enforcers and others to try to limit improper agent activity.
Baddour said in the letter to Machado, dated Monday, that UNC had developed information confirming Machado as giving jewelry to at least one player.
"Specifically," Baddour wrote, "your recent involvement with our student-athletes has led to the NCAA declaring one of our student-athletes permanently ineligible."
The letter was sent by FedEx and apparently included the jewelry in the package.
"We are returning the jewelry you provided," Baddour wrote.
Baddour also said it was taking formal action to order that Machado have no contact with any athletes or others associated with the athletics program.
UNC-CH would not release information about which player was involved, citing federal student privacy law.
But the NCAA has banned only two UNC football players who it said also received jewelry as improper benefits, actions that compromised the players' status as amateurs.
Former receiver Greg Little accepted diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and two trips to Miami, among other benefits, according to the NCAA. His benefits were valued at $4,952.
Former defensive end Robert Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami, among other benefits, the NCAA said. Quinn's benefits were valued at $5,642.
Machado's current and previous websites play up his ties to football players.
Biographical information on the site says that his business opened in 1993.
"It was only a short time before his name was synonymous with the University of Miami draftees," his website said in 2005. It is not on the site now. At the time, the site said he had designed jewelry for more than 90 NFL players.
Three months ago, Machado was the subject of a profile in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that described how he "brings the bling" for NFL players, describing rings, necklaces and other pieces he had designed that each cost $50,000 or more.
He said he was up to more than 200 NFL clients, with a player on all 32 NFL teams.
The article quoted Machado saying that future draft picks and their agents or business managers start making jewelry orders in January "so they can sparkle" during their TV interviews at draft time, which is held in April.
He said he attended a draft day party this year for one first-round pick, Jason Pierre-Paul of the University of South Florida, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The player was wearing a gold bracelet, diamond watch and necklace he had received from Machado.
The article described Machado as a "pseudo sports agent" who recruited players for his business. The article said that agents, business managers and banks often lend Machado's NFL-hopeful clients money for pre-draft purchases. It also said he watches the draft predictions to keep up with which draft picks need to increase or dial back their orders.
Documents from UNC-CH have previously identified three other people, including a sports agent and two people tied to financial planners, who were involved in providing benefits to players.
In two instances, for example, it appears that players received wristbands that allowed access to a pool party from Miami-based agent Michael Katz, according to the UNC documents. Katz's boss, sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, denies that his employee provided benefits to college players.
email@example.com or 919-829-4840