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Government witness in NCAA corruption trial claims he paid Pitt football players

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Louis Martin Blazer III hoped to recruit college football stars as business clients

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Louis Martin Blazer III, a former Pittsburgh-area financial adviser, took the stand in New York on Tuesday as a government witness in the NCAA corruption trial. The trial had centered on basketball and the illicit dealings of shoe companies to that point, but with Blazer’s testimony, the topic shifted, as he claimed to have made payments to college football stars at Pitt and several other Division I programs.

Blazer testified that he paid college football players sums ranging from $100 to $3,000 per month between 2000 and 2014 in hopes of recruiting them as clients when they became professional athletes. He alleged that players from Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Penn State also accepted money from him during their college careers. Blazer did not provide names or clarify the details of his dealings with the Pitt players further. However, he specified that he did not pay any college coaches at any point in time, according to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

A key detail regarding Blazer’s testimony is that he has not alleged any wrongdoing on the part of Pitt thus far. The NCAA rules violations were on the part of the players for accepting money, which jeopardized their amateur status. But based on the former financial adviser’s claims, a member of the Penn State coaching staff allegedly violated NCAA rules by arranging a $10,000 payment to a player in 2009.

”The coach wanted the player to consider staying [in college],” Blazer said, per Norlander. “The player was leaning on coming out.”

The one-time financial adviser also said that he made payments to a North Carolina player, who then delivered other players from the North Carolina football program to him as potential clients. North Carolina was punished by the NCAA in 2012 over improper benefits and other infractions. The program lost 15 scholarships, received a postseason ban, vacated 16 victories and was placed on probation.

Blazer became a government witness after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of defrauding five of his clients out of $2.35 million, according to Paula Lavigne of ESPN. With this money, Blazer helped finance a 2013 horror movie called “A Resurrection,” starring Michael Clarke Duncan and Mischa Barton. For his actions, Blazer could face 67 years in prison. But he hopes to have his sentence reduced as a result of his testimony.

It was already known that Blazer had a professional relationship with Pitt football players, as Lavigne revealed that in 2018.

”Blazer ... initially drew clients from a smattering of standout Pittsburgh-area high school stars-turned-pros, as well as top players for the University of Pittsburgh," Lavigne wrote. "A former colleague at [Blazer Capital] recalls the clientele as a mix of unknown rookies and big-name players spread all over the country — all in professional football.”

One of Blazer’s most notable clients was former Pitt running back Kevan Barlow, who accused Blazer of misappropriating $4 million of his earnings between 2001 and 2009. Barlow played at Pitt from 1997 to 2000 before spending six seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets.

It is unclear to what extent, if any, a Pitt program that has no players remaining from the period in question might be impacted by Blazer’s claims. Pitt has also changed athletic directors and head coaches since 2014.

As of Tuesday night, Pitt had yet to publicly comment on the matter. Blazer is scheduled to take the stand in court again on Wednesday.