NCAA investigators will return to Columbia this week as part of their ongoing probe into possible illegal activity between sports agents and college football players, two sources told The State on Tuesday.
NCAA officials met with South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders last month about whether the senior from Durham, N.C., engaged in any impermissible dealings with agents.
Investigators are expected to speak with Saunders again, perhaps as early as Wednesday, according to one of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. It is not clear whether any other USC athletes or officials will be questioned.
USC athletics director Eric Hyman said the school would work with the NCAA.
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“Upon any request from the NCAA, we will continue to cooperate and assist in any way we can,” Hyman said in a statement released through the school.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said the NCAA asked USC officials to refrain from talking about the investigation.
Asked whether the school’s compliance office had given coaches any idea of whether Saunders would be eligible, Spurrier said: “No. If I knew, I couldn’t tell you anyway.”
Saunders has practiced the first week of preseason drills, but has not been available to the media.
Since placing Southern California on probation in June for major violations related to agents, the NCAA has launched investigations at a number of other schools. In addition to South Carolina, investigators have visited North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson.
The NCAA made a second trip to North Carolina last week.
The player reported to be at the center of the North Carolina probe – defensive tackle Marvin Austin – is friends with Saunders, whose Facebook page recently included a picture of the two together.
Yahoo! Sports reported Monday the NCAA is investigating trips Austin took to Florida, in addition to his travel and training in California in 2009. In the same report, sources told Yahoo! the UNC investigation also is focused on a connection between prominent NFL agent Gary Wichard and Tar Heels assistant coach John Blake, the former Oklahoma head coach.
Spurrier said he was not surprised about the link to Blake.
“When you’ve been in coaching as long as I have, we know the reputation of almost all the coaches out there that have been around a long time. So I guess what I would say is that article’s not very surprising,” Spurrier said.
“That’s about the least I should say about it. We all have a reputation, especially guys who’ve coached 20 years or so. It’s hard to hide whatever your reputation is.”
This week’s visit will be the third known trip by NCAA investigators to USC’s campus this year. In addition to last month’s inquiry, an official interviewed defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman and at least one other player a few months ago.
Assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson, who recruited Gilmore and Holloman at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, said that visit was unrelated to the Saunders probe.
Gilmore, a Parade All-American who had scholarships offers from more than 30 schools, said the NCAA “just asked about my recruitment in high school.”