Little’s statement, contained in a previously sealed probable cause affidavit that the state released this week, is among the latest revelations in the state’s ongoing investigation into whether sports agents violated state law by providing former UNC athletes with cash and gifts. The investigation has focused on agents and former football players at UNC – Little and Marvin Austin included.
In the probable cause affidavit, signed by secretary of state special agent A.H. Jones, the state alleges Watson broke the law by providing Little, now a wide receiver with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, with a steady stream of cash during his time at UNC.
The affidavit says that after Little agreed to let Watson become his agent, Watson came to North Carolina and provided Little with $5,000. Little told agents that Watson gave him a monthly cash allowance of $2,200, and that he received $20,000 from Watson in 2010 alone.
UNC in 2010 ruled Little to be permanently ineligible after it determined that he received nearly $5,000 worth of impermissible benefits. Little told state investigators that he received more than four times that amount, and also told investigators, according to the affidavit, that he wanted to come clean.
“In the interview,” Jones, the special agent, wrote, “Little stated he was ready for this chapter of his life to be over and to get on with his life in a clean state. He advised he was going to tell us everything.”
Jones said Little received the illegal payments from Watson with the help of Jennifer Wiley, the former UNC tutor who was at the heart of an academic fraud scandal that emerged in 2010 after the NCAA began investigating whether UNC football players received impermissible benefits from agents.
Wiley, according to the affidavit, had payments from Watson sent to her address, and then she would forward those payments to Little. Little told investigators that he didn’t want to receive the payments directly from Watson for fear of potential scrutiny from the NCAA.
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In its report, the infractions committee detailed a number of major violations, which included improper academic assistance from a tutor, impermissible benefits from agents, and a failure to monitor the football program.
The NCAA’s investigation found six UNC football players over three seasons competed while ineligible because of those violations, and that multiple football players received impermissible benefits amounting to more than $31,000.
The secretary of state investigation is ongoing but focused not on NCAA violations, or on misdeeds by athletes, but on criminal activity involving agents. According to the state, Watson’s payments to Little would constitute a felony violation of the law.
In previously unsealed documents in the case, Austin, a former defensive lineman for the Tar Heels, admitted to receiving $2,000 from Watson, who delivered the cash in a FedEx envelope to Austin’s address. State investigators, according the affidavit, used FedEx shipping records to confirm that Watson had sent packages to Wiley that were meant for Little.
According to the state, Watson had “extensive contact” with UNC athletes dating to Dec. 3, 2009. According to the affidavit, Watson used coded language in his text messages with athletes, and often used the phrase “marketing information” to describe payments he’d be sending through the mail.
“It became apparent Watson was using coded texts with regards to his unlawful payments,” Jones, the special agent, wrote in the affidavit.
Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed to this report.