INDIANAPOLIS | Former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders admitted Friday that he lied to the NCAA and accepted gifts from a person who the NCAA classifies as an agent runner.
Saunders spoke Friday at the NFL Combine, where he is trying to rehabilitate his reputation for the teams who will determine his future. He will have to do that by explaining his past and why he was unable to play his senior season for the Gamecocks.
“I believe I violated some NCAA policies,” Saunders said. “Such as the people I was associating myself with. One guy I thought was a friend at South Carolina who I won’t name. Turns out he was a runner for an agent, and I didn’t know. (I was) taking trips with people I didn’t know exactly what they did. They weren’t actually agents and runners, but the simple fact that I didn’t know what they did was my fault.”
The person who the NCAA classified as a runner also knows other current and former South Carolina players, Saunders said.
“Yeah, a lot of guys knew who he was,” he said. “He was a big face around campus. He was who we called a friend. A lot of guys knew him down there.”
Saunders didn’t know, he said, if the person provided any improper benefits to other Gamecocks.
Saunders gave the NCAA misleading information during two interviews in Columbia, he said.
The NCAA was mostly interested in two summer trips Saunders made, he said, one to Atlanta and one to Washington, D.C. Former North Carolina defensive end Marvin Austin, Saunders’ friend who also missed his senior season due to NCAA entanglements, was on at least one of those trips, Saunders said.
Saunders said a friend, who he did not name, paid for the trip to Washington, D.C.
“All the other trips, I paid my own ticket,” he said.
Saunders doesn’t believe South Carolina will be punished greatly for his transgressions, partly because he was dismissed from the team, he said.
He also talked Friday about how hard he tried to be reinstated to the team after being dismissed in September.
“I met Mr. Eric Hyman four or five times, and he pretty much said that I was the cause of the whole university being investigated, compliance and other athletes,” Saunders said. “It basically started around me. At the end of the day, I don’t want to say I was the scapegoat, but (Hyman said) it was me that caused all that hoopla, so they were less inclined to allow me back on the team as another player.
“I can understand where he is coming from. I think he did what he had to do for the betterment of the team and the athletic program.”