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Informant testifies he paid former UNC football players, among others

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A former financial adviser turned federal witness in a trial about college basketball corruption brought attention on Tuesday to college football, and testified that in violation of NCAA rules he’d paid football players at several schools, including North Carolina.

Marty Blazer, a former Pittsburgh-area financial adviser, testified that he made those payments between 2000 and 2013, according to Yahoo! Sports. Blazer did not identify the players he paid.

He testified, according to Yahoo!, that he paid players at six schools, in addition to UNC: Alabama, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pittsburgh. Though Blazer’s testimony made news, the revelation of his involvement with former UNC football players is not new.

As The News & Observer reported in 2017, when it first became clear that Blazer was an informant in the federal college basketball corruption case, Blazer attempted to lure former UNC football players to his financial advising business. Some of Blazer’s actions, as they relate to UNC, surfaced in an NCAA investigation that concluded in 2012.

Interview transcripts the school released at the conclusion of the investigation revealed that NCAA investigators asked UNC football players about Blazer. That NCAA investigation focused on, among other things, players’ relationships with agents and whether players received impermissible benefits.

The investigation led in 2010 to the permanent ineligibility of Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn, three high-profile players. Eventually, the NCAA also penalized UNC with a one-year postseason ban, which it served in 2012. Other penalties included a $50,000 fine, the loss of football scholarships and vacated victories.

IMG_Raleigh_jump.jpg_3_1_ET708E8H.JPG
UNC seniors Greg Little (8) and Marvin Austin (9) joke around as they wait for the rest of the team to get into position for a team photo of the 2010 Tar Heel football squad on Friday morning August 6, 2010 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.. Robert Willett 2010 News & Observer file photo

In a statement he released to The N&O on Wednesday, Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, said the news of Blazer’s court testimony “references conduct that was part of our agent and amateurism issues that were adjudicated by the NCAA in 2012.”

“Since then,” Cunningham said, “we have strengthened our compliance staff, implemented comprehensive agent and advisor policies, and taken a national lead in supporting the passage of legislation designed to enhance transparency and accountability through the Revised Uniform Athlete Agents Act (RUAAA).”

The extent of Blazer’s actions, and the full details surrounding his payments to former UNC football players, remain unclear. A North Carolina SBI investigation into violations of laws governing sports agents, though, revealed some of Blazer’s conduct.

According to the Associated Press, court documents related to that investigation showed that Blazer and Chris Hawkins, a former UNC football player turned agent whom the university disassociated, sent each other “numerous” emails about payments or pending payments to UNC players.

Quinn, the 14th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, received $13,700 in attempt to be steered to Blazer and another sports agent, according to documents the Associated Press cited. According to those same documents, Little, who became a second-round NFL draft pick in 2011, also received payments from Blazer.

Blazer began cooperating with the government in 2014, while he faced charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the SEC, Blazer was “accused of taking money without permission from the accounts of several professional athletes in order to invest in movie projects and make Ponzi-like payments.”

Blazer’s cooperation with the government helped federal investigators build their college basketball corruption case. Still, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 67 years, according to Yahoo!.

Andrew Carter spent 10 years covering major college athletics, six of them covering the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. Now he’s a member of The N&O’s and Observer’s statewide enterprise and investigative reporting team. He attended N.C. State and grew up in Raleigh dreaming of becoming a journalist.
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