ESPN put out a statement yesterday that it was “looking into” the allegations made by a former NFL agent in an explosive SI cover story about the connection between draft guru Mel Kiper and agent Gary Wichard. It felt like one of those, “we’ll look into it for the sake of looking into it, but c’mon, he’s not going to get in trouble” comments. This morning, we’re hearing it’s quite serious – two sources tell us that ESPN suits are very unhappy with the connection.
Besides the fact that Wichard’s name and reputation have been severely tainted by his connection to the mess at UNC this year, our sources say the suits in Bristol are hoping that there’s no paper trail between longtime friends Wichard and Kiper. (If there is one, Yahoo’s Charles Robinson will find it.)
As we chronicled around draft time, the Wichard-Kiper-Vinny Cerrato triumvirate smelled fishy. (Cerrato did some draft coverage for ESPN radio.) Did this lead to Kiper being incredibly high on Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen? We’ll see. Clausen’s agent is Wichard, and Cerrato gave “media training” to Clausen prior to the draft. (How far back do Wichard and Clausen go? Wichard was in the Hummer the day Clausen picked Notre Dame.)
Kiper, of course, has denied all the allegations in the SI story.
“Conversations with players, which are occasionally facilitated by agents, are a valuable way to get to know the players. These conversations have never compromised my integrity, and my 32-year record supports that.”
You wonder if ESPN do something crazy, like … take a look at the players ranked highest on Kiper’s board prior to the draft over the last five years, and see if all of them were represented by Wichard. [UPDATE: A few readers on twitter are saying that Kiper did something similar to this at ESPN this morning on Mike & Mike. We’ll post the audio when we get it.]
[UPDATE II: ESPN emailed over the audio. Kiper goes on a rapid-fire rant, hand-picking about seven years in which he rated Wichard clients low, but they were drafted high. Most of the years he targeted were 2000-2005. He didn’t make much mention of the last few years, which we hope to take a look at sometime this week.]
[Photo via Getty]