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Tag:John Blake
Posted on: February 9, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 3:11 pm
 

UNC loses another D-line coach

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Here's something for you to ponder: which job has a shorter shelf life these days? Being Georgia's mascot, or coaching the defensive line at North Carolina? It seems like each gig is trying to one-up its counterpart. North Carolina makes the latest move with today's news that Brian Baker is leaving North Carolina to take a position with the Dallas Cowboys.

Baker just became the the defensive line coach in Chapel Hill four weeks ago, and he's the third person to have the job since the beginning of the 2010 season. Call it the Curse of John Blake if you like, because he was the man who had held on to the job before his dealings with agent Gary Wichard brought so many headaches to the Tar Heels earlier this season.

Charlie Coiner was the coach between both Baker and Blake.

As for why Baker is leaving, though he was hired four weeks ago, apparently he never signed a contract with the school. Then the Cowboys came along and made him an offer that included a "huge difference" in salaries, and he couldn't turn it down. Baker also said that his dream is still to be a college head coach some day, but he believes that going to Dallas will only help him achieve that dream.

Then there's the money, too. That doesn't hurt either.
Posted on: November 18, 2010 4:59 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2010 5:03 pm
 

UNC Chancellor: No reason to make staff changes

Posted by Chip Patterson

At Thursday morning's Board of Trustees meeting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour gave an update on the state of the football program.  With the NCAA's ruling on the final two players, the ineligibility of Devon Ramsey and Michael McAdoo, the ongoing investigation conducted by the NCAA and the university is coming to a close.  Chancellor Thorp also informed the board that the University is planning no self-imposed sanctions on the football program.  The school's investigators will turn over all of their findings to the NCAA enforcement staff, at which point they will learn what, if any, sanctions will be issued.

Thorp also took the opportunity to make a statement on the future of head coach Butch Davis.  Throughout the ongoing investigation, Davis has caught a lot of heat letting these improprieties go unnoticed for as long as they did, and earlier in the season many fans were calling for a mid-season resignation.  According to Chancellor Thorp, the University has "found no reason to make any more changes" to the coaching staff.  The "more changes" phrase of course being a reference to the resignation of assistant coach John Blake, who has been connected with the improper benefits and ties to agents, and left Chapel Hill "for the better of the program."
Posted on: November 15, 2010 12:41 pm
 

More fun for Butch Davis

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Remember the good old days of the 2010 season, when it was North Carolina head coach Butch Davis that was the worst person in the college football world?  Thanks to his decision to have John Blake on his coaching staff, Davis was forced to play out the season with a whole bunch of his players -- and some players from around the NCAA -- suspended for receiving gifts from agents.  Then this whole Cam Newton story came along, and we all forgot about Butch, which is something he's probably grateful for.

Which is why it's too bad a former academic coordinator at North Carolina, Cynthia Reynolds, has filed a grievance against the school, saying that the only reason she lost her job was because Davis wanted somebody younger -- read: more attractive -- in the position. 

"I think it's important to make the point that even though I was an 'at-will' employee, you can't get rid of somebody [because] you want someone younger in the position,'' Reynolds told the Charlotte News & Observer. "There are policies, and you have to follow them."

The 56-year old Reynolds spent seven years working with the football program before being reassigned to Olympic sports in 2009, and then let go in August of 2010.  Though, according to the school, her dismissal had nothing to do with her age as much as it had to do with her ability to do the job.  The school says that Reynolds was reassigned for two incidents.
  • A player was deemed academically ineligible in 2008 due to misadvising.
  • A secondary violation was reported to the NCAA after 18 incoming freshmen football players were not enrolled in enough summer school hours, a violation none of the players were held responsible for.
Those violations came in 2008, Reynolds was reassigned in 2009.  Seems to make sense to me.

As for Reynolds' claims that Davis wanted her removed, the coach emailed the paper and told them that her claims aren't accurate, and that he has no such authority to reassign anybody from the Academic Support Program.  Those decisions belong solely to the department.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 8:48 pm
 

Former agent admits giving illegal cash, benefits

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Back when the news about Gary Wichard, John Blake, and the now-infamous Miami party first hit, it was only remarkable in that all the people involved went ahead with the whole deal because they assumed they'd get away with it. And being that Wichard's been in the business for decades, it's unlikely that this was his first foray into shady business.

And now that we've all seen the article penned by former agent John Luchs, we can see exactly why everyone thought it was a good idea: agents commit NCAA violations all the time. Luchs cops to giving cash or benefits to over 30 different college players over the course of seven years, and not once was he or the player in question ever disciplined in any respect.

And yet, Luchs doesn't have any remorse about his work as an agent, and that's probably smart; paying players is only damaging insofar as it's illegal, not because it actually has any debilitating effect on the player's ability to perform on the football.

Still, there's a case to be made for following the rules here; while Luchs lands high-caliber players and high draft picks all over the place, the level of NFL success was higher for the guys who refused Luchs' money; those players include Keyshawn Johnson, Dana Stubblefield, and Jonathan Ogden (though Ogden did accept some concert tickets, and that's definitely a story worth reading). Meanwhile, Luchs' most successful client who took money was probably either Tony Banks or Jamir Miller; other clients included high-round draft picks Ryan Leaf, Joel Steed, and Kanavis McGhee. Which, yeah. 

The most damaging part of the story, in fact, is the part involving Gary Wichard, and that's even considering the fact that Luchs credits Wichard with telling him not to pay players. It's still bad, and here's why:

 

Gary used his contacts in the coaching community to help him get players. This has recently come into public view, as the NCAA and the state of North Carolina are investigating the Tar Heels football program and whether John Blake, a Carolina assistant coach since 2007, steered players to Gary and received money from him. It's no secret in the agent business that some college coaches steer players to certain agents. I laughed when I heard Gary deny in the media that John ever worked with Pro Tect.

When I was with Gary, John worked hand in hand with us, and Gary called him his "partner." John was the defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys when they won Super Bowls XXVIII and XXX, and the head coach at Oklahoma from '96 through '98. He was one of the best recruiters I'd ever seen. He was just electric, and I leveraged him to get clients whenever I could.

So, yes. John Blake is completely radioactive now, and while it's nice to hear Butch Davis tell people he regrets trusting John Blake, it's really a wonder that Davis even trusted him in the first place; Blake's either a genius at hiding his involvement with Wichard, or Davis ignored a lot of red flags in hiring the former Oklahoma head man.

Posted on: October 6, 2010 12:15 am
 

Don't ask Nick Saban about John Blake

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Alabama coach Nick Saban has made his feelings towards agents pretty well known in the past.  I believe Saban compared agents to "pimps" back in July when discussing the ongoing problem between agents and college athletes.  So, as you can figure out, he's not really a big fan.

He's also not a big fan of answering questions about any other college coaches who may be friendly with those pimps.  Coaches like former North Carolina assistant John Blake.   Something which will be pretty hard for Saban to avoid considering the reported interaction between Blake and Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus.  

Which is probably why he took such a dismissive tone when asked about that relationship on Monday.

"First of all, I don't know anything about this," Saban said Monday of a story that Yahoo! Sports reported late Sunday night.

"Secondly, to me, it's water that's been under the bridge for several months now. It's somewhere down in the Gulf of Mexico now. I really don't have much care about talking about that.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the honesty, integrity and professionalism of what we do as coaches, and if somebody does something to violate that, everybody can make their judgment as to what that is."

Saban then went on to say that he wasn't going to comment on other coaches or what they've been accused of doing, and that he wanted to talk about South Carolina -- Alabama's opponent this week.  Well, you can probably guess what the next question was about.  Yes, that's right, John Blake.  A question that then set Saban off.

"Is that South Carolina?" Saban said. "I guess I must stutter. Did I stutter? I'm not very clear on how I articulate. Maybe I need to go back to West Virginia and get some more hillbilly slang and maybe everybody can understand me a little better."

Nick Saban: he may not be a pimp, but he keeps that pimp hand strong.
Posted on: October 4, 2010 5:39 am
 

John Blake contacted Alabama's Dareus for agent?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

There are reports emerging late tonight that John Blake, the now-fired assistant coach to Butch Davis at North Carolina, contacted Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus on behalf of agent Gary Wichard.

Assuming all of this is true, two quick observations and one long one:

1. John Blake is now completely unemployable in D-I football.

2. Using an assistant coach at a Top 25, BCS-conference school as a runner is like the top alpha-male move an agent can make.

3. This should never happen.

Obviously it's not much of an intellectual feat to decide that this revelation is bad for college football, but the when we've gotten to the point that an agent asking an assistant coach -- regardless of whether they're prior acquaintances -- to act as a runner for a player and the coach accepts, then we're past some sort of rubicon. That would mean that both the agent and the coach had decided that to engage in this activity was in their best interests, and that the reward outweighed the risk. Furthermore, Dareus did accept over $1,700 from Wichard, leading to his two-game suspension, so evidently Dareus agreed about those best interests.

Perhaps it's a failure on the NCAA's part that these type of deals go on. Someone like Dareus would face significant punishment if he came forward to the NCAA about the nature of his involvement with people like Blake and Wichard once he accepted an illegal benefit -- regardless of whether he knew at the time it was inappropriate. At that point, it becomes in Dareus' best interests to hide this fact, not report it. With the benefit of retroactive immunity as a whistleblower, however, he can report the details of Wichard's and Blake's dealings to the NCAA without fearing the severe punishment that would normally await him.

Obviously, this would have to go hand-in-hand with an equally punitive measure against agents; recall that Wichard had to think this was all a good idea too, and that's because he doesn't face any serious professional repercussions over this mess. Sure, he's going to have some negative publicity, but Wichard still gets to be other players' agent. His agent's license (which is to say, his livelihood) isn't seriously at risk here, and as long as he and his peers are treated more favorably by the appropriate authorities than their potential clients, this type of silliness will continue unabated.

And yes, this new arrangement would sort of encourage a high-profile player to momentarily abuse this position of trust by the NCAA, but not only would it significantly discourage this strange courtship from being instigated in the first place, it's also time that the NCAA started empowering its most high-profile athletes to help protect its cherished amateurism, not assuming they're undermining it at every step of the way.

Posted on: October 1, 2010 2:42 am
 

Amazingly, Butch Davis has UNC's support

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's been generally accepted fact since the revelations about North Carolina assistant John Blake and his monetary involvement with agents that Butch Davis is, in all likelihood, the most fired man in college football. Fired-er than Tim Brewster. Fired-er than Dan Hawkins*. FI. YERD.

All of that is apparently news to Davis' employers, however, who reiterated their support for Davis in an interview with the Daily Tarheel:

In an interview, athletic director Dick Baddour said calls for Davis’ resignation are without merit.

“I continue to give Butch Davis my support,” he said. “Clearly we’ve identified some areas we need to work together to be stronger and I believe that Butch should be a part of that effort to lead this football program in the way that we know he can.”

Bob Winston, chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees, said the latest revelation has not shaken the board’s confidence in Davis.

“They have confidence in Coach Davis to lead the University of North Carolina football team,” Winston said

This type of talk goes far above the usual type of rhetoric involved in votes of confidence; Baddour and Winston are unequivocally handing the job to Davis, no more questions asked, for 2011 and beyond. There's no other way to interpret their quotes without assuming the administrators are being so deliberately misleading that a new football coach would have no reason to want to work for them.

So if Davis' job really is safe, in retrospect, it shouldn't be all that surprising; the LSU brass who came thisclose to hiring Davis twice over the last 11 years still talk fondly about him, even knowing what turmoil the UNC program was in at the time. So if Davis has this essentially universal support among administrators who've had the opportunity to interact with him, it stands to reason that he's got one more chance, and UNC wants him to have that chance in Chapel Hill. But man, if he (or any single one of his assistant coaches) messes up again, man... 

*Doesn't "Brewster Davis Hawkins" sound like a competing ad agency to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Is that just me? Fine.

Posted on: September 8, 2010 10:36 am
Edited on: September 8, 2010 11:10 am
 

Report: UNC assistant frequently called agent

Posted by Chip Patterson

As the NCAA continues it's investigation into the North Carolina football program, college football fans are left to stand on the outside only hearing rumors and murmurs of possible allegations and "insider" information.

That is until a local paper steps in with some good old fashioned investigative reporting.  The News & Observer released a report late Tuesday night that detailed the extensive communication between former assistant coach John Blake and sports agent Gary Whichard.  Blake's connections with Whichard have been the center of scrutiny since news broke of the NCAA's investigation of North Carolina in July.

The university announced Blake's resignation on Sunday evening.  According to the release, Blake stepped down "in the best interest" of the program.  Blake has hired legal representation, suggesting that his involvement in the investigation will not end with his resignation.   

The report details 61 calls from Blake's university-issued cell phone to Whichard in the 61 days between November 5 and January 4.  That date in January happens to be the day that six North Carolina juniors announced they would return for their senior season rather than enter the NFL draft.  Of those six players (Marvin Austin, Greg Little, Deunta Williams, Kendric Burney, Bruce Carter, and Quan Sturdivant), only Carter and Sturdivant were cleared to play in the season opener against LSU.

As for the response from the university?
Asked if it is ever acceptable to have that level of communication between a coach and an agent, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said in an e-mail: “Whether the level of contact is acceptable or unacceptable depends on what they talked about, and I have no idea what they were discussing. Clearly, Mr. Wichard and Coach Blake have a very close relationship. All things being equal, it’s probably better not to have a close personal relationship with a sports agent if you’re an NCAA coach.”Obviously, with the nature of the investigations in Chapel Hill covering both agent-related issues as well as possible academic improprieties, it is difficult to distinguish which of the allegations are tied to which players.  But with a possible subpoena for Marvin Austin coming from the North Carolina Secretary of State's office, it is hard not to think that this could get messy.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall already announced her investigation into possible violations of the Uniform Athlete Agent Act.  North Carolina is one of 42 states that govern contact between amateurs and agents.  The laws prohibit agents from offering gifts before a contract is signed, and the punishment can be civil or criminal.     

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