Sources: Probe explores 'runners'

The NCAA's investigation into extra benefits provided to college football standouts includes exploring the financial relationships between alleged "runners" and financial advisers for private wealth management groups, sources said.

A runner is a person who distributes money and/or benefits to amateur athletes on behalf of an agent, financial adviser or marketer or who develops relationships with players and then "shops" them to various agents.

One person who is a focus of the investigation is Todd Stewart of Washington, D.C., who confirmed he has been questioned about his relationship with multiple players, including former North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin.

Stewart acknowledged he has close relationships with college and NFL players such as Austin, Vontae Davis and Vernon Davis as well as agents but said he's not paid by any agent. He also acknowledged he attended some South Florida parties this spring attended by college football standouts from multiple schools.

"There were parties and they were popular," Stewart said. "But it wasn't some conspiracy to get players for sports agents."

The NCAA is also interested in the relationship between alleged runners and at least three private wealth management groups, sources said. Three of the groups are located in Washington, Pittsburgh and Miami, sources said.

The investigation focuses on who paid for items such as airline tickets and hotel rooms. Phone, bank, airline and hotel records have been used in an effort to help determine the sources of funding of extra benefits.

One person of interest to the NCAA is Corey Coleman of Atlanta, sources said. Another person who has spoken with the NCAA is K.J. Hughes of Washington, who says he works in marketing, including for professional athletes.

Hughes said he is not involved in giving any benefits to players. He said he spoke with the NCAA only once and that he was asked questions about Coleman and D.C.-based Jade Private Wealth Management. A separate source confirmed that group is a subject of the NCAA's inquiry.

Among the prominent college football players who have been found in the past year to have received benefits are Austin; North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little, defensive end Robert Quinn and defensive backs Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams; Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green; Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus; and South Carolina wide receiver Weslye Saunders.

The NCAA and NFLPA, which oversees NFL-certified contract advisers, have been working with the NFL and the college football coaches' association to find ways to limit the problem of benefits given to amateur athletes.

The NCAA and NFLPA are also interested in determining if and how any agents are connected to the alleged runners and wealth management groups.

A runner could be classified as an agent under the Uniform Athlete Agent Act, a state law, and if found guilty of initiating contact with a student-athlete illegally or furnishing anything of value could be found guilty of a felony crime.

Joe Schad is a college football reporter or ESPN.