Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

Former NCCU quarterback charged in UNC football probe

HILLSBOROUGH A former N.C. Central University quarterback has been arrested as part of the Secretary of State's investigation into agents providing illegal benefits to UNC football players.

Michael Wayne Johnson, a former quarterback at NCCU who was close with some UNC players, was arrested on Wednesday in Orange County.

Johnson, who now works for Drew Rosenhaus, one of the best-known sports agents in the country, is scheduled to be in court Wednesday afternoon.

The indictments, unsealed in Hillsborough on Wednesday, accuse Johnson of working with Terry Watson, a Georgia agent accused of using cash and airline tickets to out-of-state parties to entice athletes to sign with him.

Johnson, according to the indictments, is accused of providing Watson on May 7, 2010, with a location to meet Greg Little, a former UNC player at the center of many of the allegations. That meeting, according to the court document, led Watson to provide Little with $5,000.

On May 12, Johnson provided Watson with an address to send $100 to Little through the mail, and did the same thing again on June 1, the documents allege.

On Friday, Willie Barley, a Virginia resident, also made a first appearance in court in the case.

Barley was charged with three counts of athlete-agent inducement, made a brief appearance in Orange County district court and was released on $30,000 bond.

Unsealed indictments accused Barley, of North Chesterfield, Va., of providing cash, airline tickets, a rental car and hotel room to Robert Quinn, a defensive end and 2011 first-round draft pick who now plays in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.

The court appearances this week and last come on the heels of the arrest of Patrick Mitchell Jones, a real estate agent in Cartersville, Ga., who was charged with one count of athlete-agent inducement.

Jones is accused of trying to induce Quinn to sign with sports agent Watson.

Watson was arrested in October and made a first appearance in Orange County District court.

The arrests are tied to a protracted investigation by the Secretary of State's office.

Former UNC tutor, Jennifer Wiley Thompson, also has been charged in a case being watched by prosecutors and defense attorneys across the nation.

Though there have been other agents charged criminally in other states on similar grounds, it is the exception, not the norm, in the college sports world.

The Secretary of State’s office began its probe after a 2010 NCAA investigation exposed questionable activity between sports agents and the UNC football program.

Investigators have collected documents including phone records, bank statements and correspondence. They had to go to court to compel the NCAA, the governing body for college athletics, to produce documents and details related to the case.

Though there have been mounting concerns nationwide about improper contact between athletes and sports agents, legal analysts have speculated that few criminal charges result because of the time and money it takes to investigate and prosecute such cases.

An Orange County grand jury handed up five indictments related to the case that were immediately sealed.

Unsealed indictments and other court documents offer a glimpse of what critics of college sports argue is the seamy side of big-money athletics.

Three former UNC football players – Quinn, Little and Austin – have been mentioned in the indictments. All three now play in the NFL.

Little is a receiver with the Cleveland Browns. Austin, a defensive tackle, signed with the Miami Dolphins last month after the New York Giants released him in August.

Watson is accused of illegally providing Little with about $18,200 in cash – $6,600 of which was provided after NCAA investigators began their inquiry in Chapel Hill.

Watson also is accused of providing Little with two round-trip airline tickets between North Carolina and Florida the last weekend in May 2010, at a value of $1,574, and a hotel room with Internet service at the Doubletree by Hilton Surfcomber in Miami – benefits valued at $683.

Watson, who has the most indictments against him so far of the three arrested, also is accused of providing Austin with $2,000 in cash on May 4, 2010.

The accusations related to Watson and Quinn, the only 2011 first-round draft pick of the three players, are for two round-trip airline tickets between North Carolina and Florida on May 26, 2010 and a hotel room with no Internet service – benefits valued at $676.

NCAA rules allow agents to meet with college athletes, but forbid students from entering into contracts, verbal or written, while still eligible to play. Players cannot accept meals, gifts, transportation or other incentives to sign contracts later.

The NCAA regulations govern the athletes and schools, but not the agents.

Under North Carolina law, sports agents are required to register with the Secretary of State’s office and are prohibited from providing cash and other benefits to student athletes.

In addition to mandatory registration, the law requires agents to notify schools immediately when they sign college athletes. The students are given 14 days to change their mind and cancel contracts.

Schools have the legal right to sue agents who violate the law, though that option is rarely exercised. Agents who fail to comply can be punished with civil or criminal penalties.

Though a criminal conviction carries up to 15 months, the nature of the law, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has said, is that anyone convicted who has no prior criminal record would get probation, not prison time.

Correspondent Beth Velliquette contributed to this report.

Blythe: 919-836-4948
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More
CharlotteObserver.com