After much speculation and rumors, the article that possibly expedited the end of the Ohio State careers of Jim Tressel (and Terrelle Pryor?) went online at Sports Illustrated this evening.
In it, author George Dohrmann raps up a six week investigation into Ohio State football and other aspects of life in the WHAC. As you can imagine, it’s not flattering.
Sports Illustrated is alleging that the number of student athletes who have exchanged memorabilia for tattoos is actually 28, and not the 6 that were originally named. After interviewing former employees at two Columbus area tattoo parlors, this number also includes nine Buckeyes currently with the program- Jamaal Berry, C.J. Barnett, Bo DeLande, Dorian Bell, Zach Domicone, John Simon, Storm Klein, Etienne Sabino, and Nathan Williams
Also in the piece, SI alleges that some of the exchanges of memorabilia was for marijuana, and that players often partook while they were at the various tattoo establishments.
Additionally, the authors discuss what they believe is Coach Tressel’s willingness to “turn a blind eye” to the misdoings of his star athletes. For Buckeye fans, much of this is not new- Tressel’s QB at YSU (Ray Isaacs) received improper benefits from a booster that Jim Tressel allegedly introduced him to; Maurice Clarett received benefits and so forth during his tenure; and Troy Smith was also found to have been guilty of a booster’s funding. Interestingly, the fact that the NCAA reviewed these items and did not sanction Coach Tressel was a mere sidenote of the article.
Dohrmann and his colleagues also made the connection that Terelle Pryor is currently being investigated for his car usage, and seemed to speculate that this might be the same type of preferential treatment/benefits that the other star athletes received.
Finally, Dohrmann documents that a former OSU assistant coach believes that Coach Tressel “rigged a raffle” as an assistant coach to ensure that elite athletes won prizes at Ohio State football camps in the 1980s.
All this is portrayed as being contrary to Coach Tressel’s public persona; that he’d do anything to win, in spite of his professed values and ethics, and the support that many former students and others have for him.
All if this will be difficult for either side to prove; for the NCAA (who likes paper trails) or for the University (hard to exonerate in the court of public opinion). In spite of speculation that this would be a “bombshell”, it does seem like speculation and circumstantial testimony from (what SI admits are) persons of questionable reliability.
Again, at a surface level, this does not seem to be damning to the level that it would force a resignation, but we may never know what happened behind the scenes at the WHAC leading to this morning’s shocking announcement.
We will have more commentary and perspective on this as the weeks continue.
UPDATE: John Simon and Storm Klein are both denying allegations, with Simon saying that he had both of his tattoos done in HS. Scouting photos support this.