Miami’s “turnover chain” has become a charming detail in one of college football’s best stories – that of the Hurricanes’ national resurgence. The chain, glitzy and gold and featuring a gaudy orange and green Miami logo, has become fodder for announcers during broadcasts of Miami football games, as well as the subject of numerous stories.
One that hasn’t been relayed during the fawning mentions of the chain during TV broadcasts: Its creator, a South Florida jeweler named Anthony John Machado, was banned from interacting with North Carolina athletes at the start of the NCAA’s investigation into the UNC football program in 2010.
UNC, on Oct. 25, 2010, sent a letter of disassociation to Machado addressed to his store, A.J.’s Jewelry, in Cutler Bay, Fla. In the letter, Dick Baddour, who was the UNC athletic director at the time, wrote that Machado’s “involvement with one of our student-athletes has led to the NCAA declaring one of student-athletes permanently ineligible.”
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UNC that fall was in the early stages of a saga that began after Marvin Austin’s infamous tweet referencing bottle service at Club Liv, a well-known Miami nightspot. Austin, a former UNC player, was referencing a lyric from a rap song, but so began an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and improper relationships between agents, and their runners, and UNC football players.
Austin was eventually dismissed from the team. Two of his teammates, Robert Quinn and Greg Little, were declared permanently ineligible. It’s unclear whose eligibility Machado affected, but in UNC’s disassociation letter, Baddour ordered Machado to “have no further contact with any of our student-athletes or with anyone associated with our intercollegiate athletics program.”
“No contact,” the letter specified, meant no in-person contact, phone conversations, letters, text messages, emails, social media interaction “and any other communication.”
Along with the letter UNC sent to Machado, the university also returned the jewelry that Machado had provided to at least one UNC athlete. The terms of the letter of disassociation were to remain in place for at least five years, through October 2015. After that UNC would “reassess” the ban only if Machado petitioned for it to be reassessed. A UNC spokesman on Friday was reviewing whether Machado had done so.
Back in South Florida, meanwhile, Machado’s turnover chain has received good use. Miami has generated 24 turnovers, which is tied for second nationally. After each one, a player has worn the chain, which, in many ways, has generated free advertising and publicity for Machado’s business.
According to a story in South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Machado is known as the “King of Bling.” Machado’s clients include more than 1,000 professional athletes, according to that story, and more than 700 NFL players – a number that, if accurate, would represent more than 40 percent of active players in the league.
Machado told the Sun-Sentinel that Miami’s turnover chain includes 900 orange and green sapphire stones. Those went on the large “U,” Machado told the paper, “to flash it out.” And then the logo was attached to a 36-inch, 10-karat gold chain. The final product, the paper reported, was delivered to Miami’s campus while “accompanied by security.” Its cost is unknown.
College athletes are prohibited by NCAA rules from profiting off of advertisements, but they’re allowed to serve as human billboards for apparel companies like Nike, adidas and others. This season at Miami, they’re also unknowingly serving as models for Machado’s jewelry business. During his interview with the Sun-Sentinel he credited the growth of his company to “word of mouth.”
A Miami athletic department spokesman on Friday didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment about what the university’s reaction is, if any, to its football team’s turnover chain originating from a jeweler whom another ACC school banned from interacting with its athletes. Later, the university released a statement to media outlets that cover Miami athletics:
“A member of our staff purchased the Turnover Chain from a local jeweler. We are aware that that jeweler, Anthony Machado, was previously involved in a matter at another institution more than seven years ago. However, we have no reason to believe that there is – or has been – any inappropriate conduct regarding Mr. Machado and the University of Miami.”