UPDATE- We’ve put all of this information into a table for those who prefer getting their information that way (and read USA Today). Check it out here, or under the Media Table at the top right of the site.
We’ll also work to update it as necessary, should more evidence emerge either supporting or refuting these concerns.
Update 2 – It has come to our attention that not all of the information presented was sourced properly. The article has been modified to be more clear.
It’s been a hectic couple of months to be a Buckeye fan. The first half of the year has felt like every media organization in the nation, including our own home base news sources, have been giving our favorite university the third degree.
One constant in these media investigations is that the national news sources never return to the scene of the crime to report on what they got right and what they got wrong. To be honest, who really cares? People love dirty laundry, after all.
So we here at the BBC have decided to compile a list of every allegation leveled at Ohio State University and its Football Program in the last couple months. Of course, this idea may seem familiar to you. Admittedly, the Ozone (and seemingly everyone else) beat us to the punch, but we thought we could be more thorough.
We are going to do a blow by blow account of everything anyone said or suggested about OSU, as a resource for you when these things take on a life of their own. We’ll also give you the information regarding which of these have been refuted, so you can refer back as you’re bringing truth to the water-coolers around the country.
The time frames reference when we learned about the accusation, not when the violation (or accused violation) occurred. Also, anything after “Effect” on each point is writers opinion only, and not to be taken as fact unless linked as such.
Tat-gate: December 2010
This is, of course, the allegation that started it all. It was revealed in late December that 6 Buckeyes had committed NCAA violations by trading championship gear and football apparel for cash and discounts on tattoos. Of course, this allegation has been through the media more times than your favorite shirt has gone through the wash. The NCAA has already completed its investigation into this matter and released its findings.
In fact, this issue is entirely completed as far as the NCAA is concerned. The university appealed the decision by the NCAA, and the NCAA has already rejected it. The players so named were suspended for the first 5 games of the 2011 football season – though they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Effect: Resolved. The punishment has been brought on the players and that ends this issue in this form.
Tressel’s Lie: Early March 2011
In early March, Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports released information regarding a deepening of the scandal at Ohio State. Their report detailed that Jim Tressel knew about the Tattoo deals his players had received as early as April 2010. This was a shocking revelation to the college football world. Jim Tressel, the senator, had lied to the NCAA about the situation. Though, considering he was known as “The Senator”, perhaps a lie here and there might be expected – politics and all being the way they are.
The next day, the University called a press conference to publicly acknowledge the situation. They revealed that they had been working with the NCAA since early February when the emails had been discovered in an independent probe. It was realized then that the Yahoo writers had stumbled on leaked information from the NCAA probe into the situation, not unearthed the scandal itself.
The NCAA began a rigorous investigation into Ohio State compliance as a whole, but this revelation opened up the can of worms to come.
Effect: Tressel was suspended for two games originally, which Tressel later voluntarily increased to the same 5 game suspension as his players when their appeal failed. He was also fined $250,000 for the legal fees towards his defense with the NCAA.
The Plot Thickens: Late March 2011
It was later learned by the Columbus Dispatch through FOIA requests that Tressel had not only failed to notify the Ohio State Athletic Department and Compliance about his receiving emails regarding his players violations, but that he had forwarded them outside of the University. In fact, Tressel had sent those emails to Ted Sarniak, Terrelle Pryor’s mentor and a Businessman in Jennette, Pennsylvania.
This made Tressel’s situation even less tenable. Not only did he know about the situation, he even sent that information on to someone outside the university. Any attempt to claim that he knew nothing about what was going on went up in smoke at that point. Tressel quickly became a media villain, being attacked left and right for violating Bylaw 10.1 (the “no lying” bylaw).
Effect: Uncertain. Tressel was still retained by the University despite this new development, though it was clear he was in even more hot water than before. It’s hard to say if this information is what finally did him in or not, but it certainly contributed.
The NCAA has their say: Late April 2011
In late April, a full month after the details of Tressel’s lying was laid bare for the world to see, the NCAA dropped their Notice of Allegations on the Buckeyes. The letter detailed that not six, but seven players were involved in the crime (PDF). None of the player’s names were released in the letter, having been redacted by the University for privacy reasons.
The NCAA also noted Tressel’s violation of failing to report his knowledge that “at least two football student-athletes received preferential treatment”. The NCAA leveled two significant penalties at Tressel, both Bylaw 14.11.1 (“failure to withhold student-athletes”) and Bylaw 10.1 (“lying”) (PDF). The shock, though, was that they were leveled at Tressel specifically, and not the University as a whole.
Effect: This was the document that everyone was waiting for, and I don’t think there was a single person who wasn’t surprised by the results. Buckeye fans were obviously surprised by the fact that there was a seventh player, though discussions quickly nailed down that the new name was Ray Small.
The rest of the world, on the other hand, was shocked by how little the notice seemed to ding the Buckeyes. Tressel had lied to the NCAA on three separate occasions, but the NCAA didn’t state a Failure to Monitor, or the more serious Lack of Institutional Control that everyone was anticipating. Many media outlets almost seemed to report this with disappointment, perhaps hoping for something more groundbreaking to release.
“Everybody is doing it”: Late May 2011
Former Ohio State Buckeye Ray Small went on the record with the Ohio State school newspaper “The Lantern” to inform them that “Everybody is doing it”. This statement caused a huge sensation among Buckeye fans, players (both current and former) and the national media who took it as a sign that the Ohio State program had slipped into a deep lack of control.
Not surprisingly, after taking a huge punishment on twitter and the airwaves from his former teammates, Ray Small backed off his claims. Malcolm Jenkins, in an interview with us on tBBC Radio Hour, pointed out that the statement was just one of those off-the-cuff remarks that Small would make. What he meant certainly wasn’t the way it sounded, it was just his way of speaking.
Those statements, though, couldn’t unring the bell. The national media was in a feeding frenzy, and it was only a matter of time before they dug up more stuff on the Buckeyes.
Effect: This is probably the point at which the national perception fully turned from “the coach lied to protect the players” to “Ohio State is cheating outrageously”. It probably also hastened the departure of Jim Tressel, particularly after the next couple of details were released.
Before any other information hit the press, and five days after the Ray Small interview with The Lantern went public, Jim Tressel resigned from the University. It remains unclear if the University requested his resignation, or if he offered it willingly, but either way, Tressel was out.
Pryor’s Unusual car history: Late May 2011
The Columbus Dispatch followed the Lantern story (and the news of Tressel’s resignation) with another shocker. The paper had discovered that the NCAA and University were looking into the possibility that Terrelle Pryor had received free cars and other extra benefits from Jack Maxton Chevrolet. If true, this was clearly another major violation of NCAA bylaws, and a significant change in the tone of the investigation.
To this point, Pryor was simply the head man in a small time apparel for services ring in the Ohio State Football team. If he was also receiving additional benefits due to his position as an Ohio State football player, that would really be the final straw.
Ray Small’s comments apply to this issue, but he was not the only one. Ohio State’s favorite walk-on athlete Mark Titus (now probably “former favorite” in some circles) commented on his blog, Club Trillion, that, “You would have to be blind not to notice..” the cars being driven by the football players. He points out that many of them were driving what he (and others) viewed to be cars too expensive for their means.
Effect: The report launched a full NCAA, University and Ohio BMV investigation into any possible inappropriate car deals between Pryor (and other players) and Jack Maxton Chevrolet. This also lead to questions about the Basketball team’s car purchases (particularly William Buford and Jon Diebler).
As for The Shark, he has taken an incredible amount of heat for his statements. I’m not sure Club Trillion will ever be the same, and that’s a huge loss for Buckeye fans and the University.
How Deep SI Went: May 30th 2011
After a week or two of hype, Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann released his findings about the Ohio State program. This article was supposed to be the bullet that finally proved Tressel and Ohio State were dirty, out of control cheaters.
Sports Illustrated provided Ohio State officials with the articles several days in advance of the release. It is believed that the contents of the article were the last straw, causing the University to finally pressure Tressel to resign.
We’ll hit each of Dohrmann’s points one at a time. He builds a historical record of Jim Tressel’s “sordid” past, so he starts long before he takes over at Ohio State.
While at his first Head Coaching gig in Youngstown, it is claimed that Jim Tressel had arranged a job for Ray Isaac, his star quarterback. The job was at a local drug store chain owned by Mickey Monus. Eventually, it is claimed that Isaac earned $10,000 while working with Monus, along with earning a car owned by the company.
When the NCAA came to investigate in 1994, they apparently discovered that 13 players were employed by the drug store (in violation of NCAA rules), and that many other nonscholarship athletes had been paid by the University’s director of athletic development.
Dohrmann states that the NCAA investigator sent the NCAA a “nothing to see here” response at the end of his investigation. This is very odd considering the magnitude of the Youngstown State charges. Dohrmann believes that Tressel hid the violations behind his pristine outward appearance, lulling investigators into a false sense of security.
Effect: None. These charges came to national attention during the Maurice Clarett investigation in 2004, first released by ESPN. It is widely believed outside of Ohio State faithful that this indicates that Tressel has a dirty side. Ohio State fans believe that the actions of the NCAA during it’s 1994 investigation indicate that there was nothing to find. Given the lack of “new” information, the effect is nearly minimal.
On the other hand, it took less than a day for Isaac to refute the article. He claimed that Dohrmann’s account was completely fabricated – suggesting that things were not nearly as out of control, or even that Tressel knew anything that was going on at Youngstown.
This one is either vividly remembered by Buckeye fans, or completely forgotten – buried to hide the emotions it evokes when recalled. After the 2002 National Championship campaign, it was discovered that Maurice Clarett had gained extra benefits through his role as a football player. This started when a car Clarett had loaded with stereo equipment was stolen – all valued to the tune of $10,000. The event sparked a media firestorm and massive NCAA investigation into Clarett’s actions and Ohio State University as a whole.
After the smoke cleared, Clarett was found to have broken the NCAA extra benefits bylaws, but Ohio State was completely unscathed. This, despite the fact that Clarett had claimed that Tressel had provided him cars, directed him to boosters who provided thousands of dollars, and arranged lucrative no-show jobs. All of these facts should seem familiar to you, being similar to Isaac’s story.
In the end, Tressel remained untouched by the investigation and, though Ohio State struggled for about a season and a half without a significant runningback threat, the Buckeyes simply got stronger.
Effect: None. Anybody who has watched College Football for the last decade, and even the majority of the younger generation who haven’t, already knew about this disaster. Clarett has been in the news cycle for so often and for so long that you couldn’t help but know about this situation.
Better yet, Clarett came out not long after the SI article and refuted his statements on Dan Patrick’s radio show, claiming that he lied regarding the extra benefits. Considering his history of Clarett, I don’t believe anyone found those remarks surprising. Even at the time, the remarks he made were viewed with suspicion, having no evidence to link them with reality.
Dohrmann next looks at the “car-gate” issue, stating that several players were involved in the deals. He quoted Ray Small’s conversation with the Lantern, along with Mark Titus’ statements, viewing them as proof from inside the department walls.
Effect: Nothing spectacular. This issue was already released by the Dispatch to more acclaim. If anything, all Dohrmann did was to draw more national attention to it.
The article next points to the so-called “$500 Handshake”. This was the violation that caused Troy Smith to be suspended for two games – including the Alamo Bowl. Apparently, the cofounder of “Poly-care” health products, Robert Q. Baker, provided jobs for both Gamble and Smith. Those jobs, reputedly involved nothing more than showing up and signing autographs – a clear NCAA violation if true.
Smith was suspended after an NCAA investigation into the situation. Gamble was never found to have committed any wrongdoing, having told the University and investigators that his job did involve actual work.
Effect: None. Dohrmann again draws national attention to a situation that the NCAA is satisfied is solved, claiming that it’s indicative of greater wrongdoing by Tressel. Other than building his narrative, this issue is meaningless.
After hearing a story passed around coaching circles, Dohrmann claims to confirm a story regarding Tressel’s practices under then Head Coach Earle Bruce. Purportedly, Ohio State would hold raffles for kids attending their camps, selling tickets to the players. Tressel would then rig the raffle so that the recruiting targets would get the prizes.
Dohrmann states that the story was confirmed by an unnamed colleague of Tressel’s during the Earle Bruce years. The individual asked not to be identified due to “close ties to the Ohio State community”.
Effect: Shocking, but it didn’t result in anything substantial. If Tressel did commit these actions, they were outside the statute of limitations for the NCAA. This would mean that the NCAA couldn’t punish Ohio State for those infractions.
However, the complete lack of evidence – beyond it being a story in coaching circles and having been confirmed by an unnamed source – means that there’s nothing to the claim anyway. There is no proof that Tressel ever did commit those infractions, while there does exist evidence that he didn’t (via the Ozone). This story is so flimsy that it doesn’t even support Dohrmann’s narrative, except among those who are predisposed to believe Tressel’s guilt.
Dohrmann brings to light evidence of previous tatgate style scandals at Ohio State. A different tattoo parlor – Dudley’z – apparently was the scene of multiple deals between Ohio State football players and the owners.
Dustin Halko, a former Dudley’z tattoo artist, claims that from 2002 to 2004 players would regularly be seen trading autographed apparel and gear for tattoos. He even names several of the players he claims to have inked himself (of the 10 total)
He also claimed that the place became a social hub for the athletes, a place that they could dance, drink and smoke marijuana provided by employees of the shop.
To his credit, Dohrmann talks to others as well. The former owner of the shop – Darrell Ross – argued that Halko didn’t work there long and was lying to get his name in the paper. Another individual, Megan Zonars, who lived above Dudley’z starting in 2003, confirmed Halko’s story – claiming that Halko worked there every day, and OSU football players were frequent visitors.
Effect: The story plays to the narrative, particularly when you add in that Halko later worked at Fine Line Ink. Clearly, Halko’s experiences make him the perfect source. He seems to have been in the know for many years, and another independent source confirmed his story.
Unfortunately, Halko isn’t exactly an unimpeachable source. Dohrmann admits in his article that Halko’s criminal past makes him far from unimpeachable. Halko served time in prison for assault and once had issues with drugs. He claims within the article that he has no reason to lie, but Ross himself gave a credible reason for that.
When all is said and done, this could be Dohrmann’s first significant finding – if it can be proven. Fortunately, events that occured between 2002-2004 are outside the 4 year NCAA Statute of Limitations (per NCAA bylaws). Even if they could be proven true, which is unlikely considering the quality of information gained and complete lack of hard evidence, nothing would come of it.
Including the ones named in the previous allegation, Dohrmann names a grand total of 22 players who traded in gear and apparel for tattoos. The names, enumerated by a source that Dohrmann calls “Ellis”, includes 9 currently active players:
It also includes several players who have no remaining eligibility or players who have transferred to other institutions, including: Donald Washington, Jermale Hines, Devon Torrence, Rob Rose, Ray Small, Thaddeus Gibson, Jermil Martin, Doug Worthington, and Lamaar Thomas.
The article particularly digs a grave for Martin, who is claimed to have received cars in trade for services, including a Tahoe for Rose Bowl tickets. The others in the story are also nailed for varying degrees of violations.
Effect: Stunning, but still not incredibly significant to Ohio State. These accusations indicate that many more than six players were involved in the gear-for-tattoos deals, but that’s probably not too surprising. Ray Small and Rob Rose admitted to the charges after the fact, though few of the others named players have done the same – many choosing simply to not talk to SI.
Ultimately, the effect on Ohio State would be negligible, even if all of these players were found guilty. The original penalties are based on the same crimes, and the University was not significantly penalized for the charges. Adding 22 names to the list would do nothing to further the charge. As Jayne Cobb might say, “Let me do the math here…nothing, and then nothing, carry the nothing…”
The effect on Sports Illustrated, however, might be more damaging. After the article was released, several of the named OSU players and their parents (most notably John Simon and Storm Klein) came out as saying that they could prove that their kids still had their memorabilia. Both Klein and Simons’ fathers indicated a desire to seek legal consul on the possibility of suing SI for libel. That was closely followed by other players being defended by parents, friends or close acquaintances.
ESPN catches Pryor’s hand in the Cookie Jar: Early June 2011
ESPN released the next big finding on the Ohio State program when they revealed news that Pryor had earned upwards of $20-40 thousand dollars selling his signature. The beneficiary giving Pryor all of this cash was one Dennis Talbott, a local businessman unrelated to the University.
The information for the article came from an unnamed “former friend of Pryor’s”. Speculation ran rampant for a while that the former friend was former Ohio State quarterback Antonio Henton. That died down when speculation increased regarding the friend instead being Antonio’s brother Antwan. Neither claim was proven with any merit.
Effect: Pryor had been under investigation for some time to that point for his cars, and possible other extra benefits. Hours before ESPN’s OTL released the story, Pryor chose to end his collegiate career. Many viewed that as a sign that he was as guilty as sin, but with Pryor now outside of the NCAA’s reach nothing could be conclusively proven.
To date, it appears Pryor left for other reasons, if only due to the complete lack of evidence backing ESPN’s claim. Perhaps Pryor left due to the rifts within the team that were forming due to his actions. It’s very likely that Pryor left more because of fear of facing his teammates than any other reason. Unfortunately, it’ll probably be many years or even decades before we know for sure – if we ever do.
ESPN hits a hole in one on Pryor and Posey: Early June 2011
This is the scandal that quickly became known as “Golfgate”. Reportedly, Terrelle Pryor – who Jim Tressel said had gained a healthy interest in golf – along with DeVier Posey received access to an exclusive golf club with Dennis Talbott. Members of the club report that they found it odd seeing Pryor and Posey at the club, and even attempted to contact the coaching staff who, reportedly, did nothing. Though, Pryor and Posey were never seen at the club again after that.
The report claims that Pryor and Posey were able to play the golf for free, having it paid for by Talbott.
Effect: None. All the players have to do is say they paid Talbott for the rounds, problem solved. At worst Posey will suffer a larger suspension, but the NCAA would have to demonstrate first that he did anything at all. That is reasonably unlikely at this point in time.
Cargate Dies an Unseemly Death: June 2011
The Columbus Dispatch reported an Ohio BMV finding that tore the legs out from under one of the bigger issues surrounding Terrelle Pryor. Apparently, absolutely none of car sales between Ohio State Student Athletes and Jack Maxton Chevrolet (or any other car salesman for that matter) were performed illegally. Immediately after that release, the University ceased all further investigation into the matter, suggesting that this allegation had died.
Effect: It was the first bit of good news for Ohio State fans after months of nothing but horror. Not that this was much of a surprise to us, though. With the University backing off the investigation, it’s clear that the final possibility for finding an NCAA violation was if something illegal had been done. All other avenues had been cleared.
While many will take the University’s actions as potentially suspicious, the NCAA had already ceased their full investigation into the University before the BMV had even reported. It is apparent that the NCAA knew everything they needed to already.
So what will the NCAA do?
Unfortunately at this point, we don’t know. Until the NCAA files a new Notice of Allegations for Ohio State, we won’t know what’s going on in their minds. We can, however, make some clever speculation.
I mean that, what follows is entirely speculation.
As for Sports Illustrated, they are toast. This may catch ESPN too, though they covered their backside a little more effectively than SI did. The OSU players named in the SI article, once the NCAA findings are released, will very likely have a field day with the magazine. That should keep the rest of the sports media in line with most NCAA investigations in the future.
Nothing would make my day more than for the media to take the brunt of the punishment for the last six months of hell. They richly deserve it.
What does this ultimately all mean for the University you love? We’ll be taking a look at the NCAA’s response to date next week. Stay tuned!