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Mr. James was never directly implicated in the NCAA transgressions, and he consistently has denied any involvement.

But Mr. James also has had a close relationship with Dallas real estate developer Sherwood Blount, one of the key boosters involved in the pay-for-play scandal. Mr. Blount, who reportedly insisted SMU had a “payroll to meet” even after the school promised the payments would stop, was Mr. James‘ agent when he played in the NFL.

In his book “Gameday,” Mr. James wrote: “I’m not going to sit here and tell you I never received a nickel during my playing days. But I can say with certainty that no benefits were ever extended to me from anyone associated with the SMU administration.”

After college, Mr. James was drafted by the Washington Federals in the USFL and signed with the Patriots before the 1985 season. He retired from football in 1989.

As a businessman, James has been involved in ventures providing video content for the Internet as well as real estate holdings and development, according to the Texans for a Better America website.

Associated Press writer Chris Tomlinson contributed to this report.