Former Georgia Tech quarterback Calvin Booker had a somewhat murky role in the NCAA’s investigation into Georgia Tech’s football program.
Booker, a drop-back quarterback whose skills didn’t really fit into Paul Johnson’s option scheme, was at the apartment of Demaryius Thomas’ cousin, Earl, when Thomas and Morgan Burnett arrived that October, 2009 night. Booker was friends with Earl’s roommate, Herbert Hilliard.
In Georgia Tech’s response to the NCAA on March 17, this description was included as one of the alleged violations:
In October 2008, Herbert “Hype” Hilliard, a friend of Calvin Booker, an employee of RFL Sports Inc. (RFL Sports), a sports agency based in Atlanta, provided then football student-athlete Demaryius Thomas several items of clothing valued at approximately $312. In addition, Hilliard provided then football student-athlete Morgan Burnett with similar items of clothing as Thomas at a similar value.
Thomas speculated that because he thought Booker was working for an agent, and Booker and Hilliard were friends, the clothes might have been an enticement for Thomas to sign with RFL Sports, whom Thomas thought Booker worked for. Thomas later signed with another agent.
During his interview, Booker said that Richard Kopelman, one of the owners RFL Sports, was his agent for a short time. Booker said he never worked for Kopelman as a runner. Through a lawyer, Kopelman corroborated Booker’s statement. Burnett was later cleared by the NCAA.
The murkiness occurs because during one of Thomas’ interviews, he said he remembered Booker telling him he wanted to one day be an agent. Booker is currently enrolled in law school in California. I reached Booker on the phone this morning. He said he was busy and would call back. Attempts to reach Thomas and Burnett today have been unsuccessful.
So why did athletics director Dan Radakovich subsequently bar Booker from Tech’s facilities?
Because of this passage in Tech’s response:
The University believes that the AGA staff must have had some information that suggested
Booker worked with RFL Sports, but this information has never been made available to the
University and is not in the custodial file. During a conversation with the University in
November 2009, however, Marcus Wilson of the AGA staff reported that Booker was a
runner for a sports agency, but Wilson did not identify the source of the information nor did
he supply any supporting information or evidence. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure,
Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich banned Booker from utilizing the weight-training
facilities and from receiving complimentary admissions (See Exhibit 1-1). Those restrictions
remain in effect, although the University has yet to receive any information of Booker
working as either an agent or runner other than Thomas’ comments. At the conclusion of
this inquiry, the University will reevaluate its position with respect to its relationship with
Here’s a copy of one of Thomas’ interviews. (MW = Marcus Wilson, with the NCAA Agents, Gambling, and Amateurism (AGA) staff; PP = Paul Parker, Tech’s former compliance officer. DT = Demaryius Thomas; Hype is Hilliard):
MW: Do you, um, do you know Cal- do you know Booker?
DT: Yeah, I know Calvin. I, um, when he was playing here we use to be kinda, like.
MW: Right, right.
DT: Yeah, we was close.
MW: Have you, uh, do you know what he’s doing now?
DT: Uh, I guess, that’s what I heard. I really didn’t know he was doing it, but I heard it.
MW: Um, did you, what specifically did you hear?
DT: I heard he was working for somebody that’s an agent. I also heard he was working for
Mike Johnson’s agent.
MW: All right. Richard Kopelman, have you heard of that name?
DT: Yeah. I’ve heard of that name.
MW: Okay. Um, is he, is, is Booker, is he, is he around the football center a lot? I mean
does he come around a lot these days?
DT: He’s, he’s never there.
MW: Why, um, why did Hype want to give this to ya’ll? Why did, I mean, why is he giving
ya’ll an early Christmas present?
DT: I don’t. I, I really don’t know.
MW: What’s, help me understand.
DT: Maybe, I don’t. I really don’t know.
MW: Who did –
DT: I, I don’t even know if Hype, like, actually knows the agent Richard. I don’t even
know if he know him, but, um. I know since Book and Hype was homeboys since
when they were, when they were, I mean, whenever. I would guess he get us some
stuff to maybe going away or looking towards Book and them if we wanting to sign
to an agent I guess.
MW: Help, help me understand that a little bit more.
MW: Why, why would Hype want you to go Book’s way for an agent? You think Hype’s
working for Booker or Hype’s working for, for the agent?
DT: I mean, I really don’t know, I don’t know what’s going on. I just know we went to his
house and, and we got it from Hype’s house.
[Pages 12 and 13]
MW: Was there any? When he, when he gave you these clothes, I mean, I know you said
he, was there any talk about Michael Johnson’s agent or Kopelman?
DT: No, they didn’t say nothing about no agent or nothing. They was just, like, we got a
gift for ya’ll. That’s why I was saying, like, I don’t know if Hype, I don’t know what
Hype do. But they didn’t say nothing about a agent or anything.
MW: What? I mean, why would, I mean, was there, like, a implicit understanding? What’d
you, what’d you think when somebody’s got all these clothes here and saying, happy
DT: I don’t know, ’cause.
MW: I mean, what do you, like, are you not, like, well why are you doing this?
DT: I was like that but I, I wasn’t taking it from no agent so, that’s why I got it.
MW: All right. And did you, did you think that was okay?
DT: At first I didn’t, but I didn’t, I wasn’t even asking, thinking about it at the time. Um,
and then I thought about it later after I started talking, well meeting with my parents
and coach Johnson about the agents and everything. I knew when the agents to talk to
you or not and all that other type of stuff.
PP: Did you ever think about taking it back and giving it back to Hype?
DT: Yeah. ‘Cause I, I haven’t used it.
MW: Do you, um, was it, why was, why was Booker, why was Booker there at the, at the,
Earl’s house on this occasion?
DT: I, answer I don’t know. Uh, I know, like, we hang over there a lot. We’ve been, like,
that’s, like, a chill spot, like, just hang out ’cause they have parties a lot. Like, I went
over there, like, three or four times this year during the season they have a little
cookout and stuff.
As noted above, Burnett acknowledged being at Hilliard’s home on this occasion.
In addition to banning Booker, Tech also banned former Tech player Damarius Bilbo, who works for Thomas’ agent, Todd France, as the director of recruiting. Bilbo has not been accused by the NCAA or by Tech as violating any rules. Radakovich said the step was simply precautionary.
Bilbo didn’t know that Tech had banned him, something that he said offended him because he has registered with the state and with Tech’s compliance office. He said he would never do anything to jeopardize the players or their eligibility. The only mention of Bilbo in any document related to the investigation was the fact that Tech had banned him from using facilities or receiving complimentary tickets.
“They could have reached out to me,” he said. “I graduated; I’ve never been in any trouble there. I stayed there [during a coaching and position change] and made a commitment to Georgia Tech. If they want to disassociate themselves with me for nothing, that’s up to Georgia Tech. It’s unfortunate. I work with a different type of agency. Just because we are in a bad business doesn’t mean we are bad people. I can help these kids.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC