Bobby D Speaks; Seen With OSU Rose Bowl Ring

On Feb. 4, 2011, disassociated Ohio State booster Bobby DiGeronimo appeared on WMJI-FM’s “Lanigan & Malone” morning show in Cleveland to promote the charity event which ultimately rendered three Buckeye football players ineligible.

Bobby DiGeronimo with John Cooper after 1998 Michigan game wearing Big 10 Rose Bowl Championship Ring

(Banned OSU Booster Has His Own Championship Ring? Of Course He Does)

DiGeronimo has since admitted to giving three Ohio State players envelopes containing cash at this Feb. 19, 2011, Cornerstone of Hope Gala, which has subsequently led to his own formal ban from all contact with OSU athletics.


During his Cleveland radio appearance, DiGeronimo led off his description of the the event thusly:

“… We try to make this fun, we do about 25 minutes of serious stuff, including introducing all the Ohio State Buckeyes on this current team that’ll be there, last year there was 20 of them. Then Troy Smith, Teddy Ginn, Robert Smith, Mike Vrabel, Tom Cousineau, Doug Dieken, those kind of people show up and give us their support. And we have some great auction prizes …

Among the current Ohio State football players who attended the Feb. 19, 2011, event were Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Hall, Corey Brown, Travis Howard and, as reported only by SbB, Nathan Williams and Braxton Miller. SbB also broke the news that Pryor’s late August testimony to the NCAA was why Hall, Brown and Howard were cited - and suspended - by Ohio State for the DiGeronimo cash grab.

Ironic that DiGeronimo didn’t cite John Cooper as a past or future attendee of the Feb. 19, 2011, charity event to the Cleveland radio show considering the rogue OSU booster’s close relationship with the former Ohio State head football coach. It was Cooper who afforded DiGeronimo sideline and locker room access at Ohio State football games, along with rides on the team plane.

Bobby DiGeronimo with John Cooper after 1998 Michigan game wearing Big 10 Rose Bowl Championship Ring

(Yes, The Photo Is Real. And Spectacular.)

Not to mention an Ohio State championship ring that DiGeronimo was seen wearing in an Associated Press photo in 1998.

In the above photo DiGeronimo, who has also staged Cooper’s annual charity event golf tournament the past two years, can be seen wearing what appears to be a personalized 1996-97 Big Ten Rose Bowl Championship Ring identical to the rings given to OSU players and coaches.

Bobby DiGeronimo with John Cooper after 1998 Michigan game wearing Big 10 Rose Bowl Championship Ring

(Photo Credit: Mark Hall of the ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Here’s a link to a sample of Cooper’s ring - which is clearly the same style ring DiGeronimo was photographed wearing while he attempted to escort the Buckeyes football coach off the playing field following Ohio State’s 31-16 victory over Michigan on Nov. 21, 1998.

If you had had that kind of access to the Ohio State football program - not to mention the accompanying bling - would you throw away that 30 -year relationship by handing $200 to three players who hadn’t yet started a game at Ohio State?

That’s essentially what DiGeronimo claimed he did when he told the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER on Sept. 21, 2011, that the cash envelopes were the only time he’d paid OSU football players. Ever.

Apparently DiGeronimo forgot he paid still-suspended star Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey over $700 for summer job work Posey didn’t do, along with overpayments to four other Buckeyes including still-suspended OSU running back Daniel “Boom” Herron.

So now that he’s officially disassociated from the Ohio State football program - thanks to recent testimony to the NCAA by Terrelle Pryor - will DiGeronimo have to give his Big Ten & Rose Bowl ring back to the school?

As Ohio State gave Pryor, who is now disassociated himself from the school, a 2010 Big Ten championship ring from a now-vacated season, I have a sneaking feeling I am the first - and last - person to ask that question.

Brooks is on Facebook and Twitter.

Booster Sold Right To Dine With Current Buckeyes

On Sept. 15, 2011, 30-year Ohio State booster Bobby DiGeronimo confirmed to Bill Lubinger of the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER that he facilitated cash payments to three current Ohio State players - from envelopes distributed at a Cleveland-area charity event - on Feb. 19, 2011.

Bobby DiGeronimo OSU Rogue Booster Sold Right To Dine With Beanie Wells Buckeyes At 2008 Charity Event

(Private access to then-current Buckeyes available in 2008 - at the right price)

As part of his piece on DiGeronimo, Lubinger reported:

Cornerstone for Hope has held a charity dinner and auction for eight years, raising from $150,000 the first year to $300,000 this year. It draws between 650 and 750 guests. One of the attractions is celebrity guests at each table, including Ohio State athletes.

And years back, when DiGeronimo’s close friend John Cooper was still head coach of the football team, the auction would include an offer to play “Buckeye for a Day” — a chance to attend football practice and meet the players. It brought in winning bids of $2,500 to $3,000.

In 2011, Cornerstone of Hope’s charity auction included autographed - and framed - Ohio State memorabilia items from then-current Buckeye football star Terrelle Pryor and current Ohio State basketball player Jared Sullinger:

Bobby DiGeronimo OSU Rogue Booster Sold Signed Memorabilia From Terrelle Pryor and Jared Sullinger at 2011 Event

(Part of live auction guide from rogue OSU booster’s charity event)

As he reportedly did during the Cooper era at Ohio State, DiGeronimo also sold a Buckeye fan experience at his 2008 event. But this time, thanks to a sign seen in a photo of the Cornerstone of Hope gala in progress that year, we now know DiGeronimo wasn’t merely hawking access to practice.

Terrelle Pryor at Charity Event in Cleveland where 3 Ohio State players were paid

(Pryor, seen at 2011 event, ratted out teammates, DiGeronimo to NCAA)

As seen below, one of the auction items at the 2008 Cleveland-area charity benefit was titled “Dinner with Beanie.” The sign display clearly states that personal access to then-current Ohio State football players Beanie Wells and Lawrence Wilson was available - at a price.

Bobby DiGeronimo OSU Rogue Booster Sold Right To Dine With Beanie Wells Buckeyes At 2008 Charity Event

Ironic that the partly-obscured description of the “Dinner with Beanie” experience sold by DiGeronimo that year also noted the words “strict compliance“, considering Ohio State is on the record in stating that the rogue Buckeye booster’s entire event that year was non-compliant.

Ohio State Buckeyes, including Branden Smith, broke NCAA rules at 2008 charity event in Cleveland

 (Same 2008 OSU Booster Event Where ‘Dinner with Beanie’ Auctioned)

A week ago DiGeronimo contended to the Plain Dealer that his providing envelopes containing cash to three Ohio State players who, at the time, had never started a game “was the only time players have been paid in the gala’s eight years.

Ohio State Players at 2008 Cleveland Charity Event - Noncompliant

(Some of the Buckeyes who attended 2008 non-compliant DiGeronimo event)

So what’s the odds Ohio State compliance ever investigated whether Wells and Wilson paid for their own dinners - and travel expenses - for participating in the DiGeronimo-germinated Buckeye football fan experience?

Check? Please.

Brooks is on Twitter, Facebook and at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com.

Blacklisted by OSU, Talbott Now Works MGOBLUE

UPDATE (Sept. 21, 2011, 12:36am PT): The ASSOCIATED PRESS corrects the record, noting that Dennis Talbott did not cite his affiliation with This Week In Football - or Icon SMI - when obtaining a sideline media credential under the name “Jay Talbott” for the Sept. 3 Michigan-Western Michigan game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Dennis Talbott Ohio Sports Weekly

(Website? Dormant. Talbott Facebook page? Awash in Michigan pics!) 

Instead, Talbott duped Michigan into gifting him a field pass by noting his affiliation with the website OhioSportsWeekly.com. What Talbott neglected to tell UM when he obtained his precious credential on August 31 was that he himself owned the OhioSportsWeekly.com domain - and had slapped up an empty storefront at the web address designed only to persuade media relations personnel into thinking Talbott was a member of the working media.

In the three weeks since Talbott shot the Michigan-Western Michigan game, he has added dozens of photos of the game - including one of himself shooting the action from the sideline - to his Facebook page. Yet the so-called media outlet Talbott claimed as his sole reason for being at the Big House, OhioSportsWeekly.com, not only hasn’t been updated since the UM-WMU game, the site has remained virtually unchanged since Feb. 1, 2011.

UPDATE (Sept. 20, 2011, 1:05pm ET): Michael Rothstein of ESPN reports that after learning from the SbB report below that Ohio State-blacklisted photog Dennis Talbott had gained sideline media access for the Sept. 3 Michigan-Western Michigan football game at Michigan Stadium, the school announced today that Talbott “has been banned by the Michigan athletic department.

Dennis Talbott: Banned by Michigan after SbB report

(Talbott fallback? Shooting rogue OSU booster’s favorite high school coach)

Rothstein reported that Talbott used an “unfamiliar” name while claiming affiliation with the very same publication that scored him sidelines at Ohio State beginning in 2009 - and access to the high school coach who has sent the most players to Ohio State the past decade, Cleveland-Glenville head coach Ted Ginn, Sr.

- - -

Three months ago an anonymous source alleged to ESPN that Dennis Talbott, a Central Ohio-based businessman with a sudden, new-found love for photography, “made at least 35 payments to [Terrelle] Pryor in 2009 and 2010 for signing memorabilia, for a total payout of between $20,000 and $40,000.

Dennis Talbott shooting Michigan game on Sept. 3, 2011

(Banned By Ohio State, Talbott Now Employing Northern Exposure)

Following the ESPN report, SbB revealed details of those transactions and an eBay account and now-defunct company from which Talbott sold dozens of collectibles featuring the signatures and likenesses of then-current Buckeye football players.

So how did Talbott acquire the access needed to enable such a “business“?

One way was to affiliate himself with a small Ohio-based online publication called This Week In Football. Talbott struck up that relationship in large part to (somehow) obtain photographer media credentials from Ohio State - despite having never shot as a professional photographer until 2009. Talbott actually stumbled upon the idea of posing as a pro photog after snapping some pics from the sidelines of 2008 Fiesta Bowl.

Jim Tressel signing memorabilia for Dennis Talbott

Starting with the 2009 Ohio State football season, armed with sideline access provided by Ohio State, Talbott accumulated his own product - which he reproduced for signings  and sales - while also gaining the acccess needed to develop personal relationships with players like Pryor, DeVier Posey, Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibson.

It wasn’t long before Ohio State-licensed memorabilia dealers caught on to Talbott’s “photography” con thanks to his prior reputation as an unafraid purveyor of the sale of unlicensed OSU product - along with his alleged penchant for forging the signature of a head coach known for his flagpin affinity.

It was that steady stream of beefs from upstanding memorabilia dealers, not anyone at Ohio State compliance or within the athletic department, that caused Talbott to eventually be stripped of his prized, Ohio State sideline pass. Between that loss, his eBay account being outed and the 2011 ESPN reports, Talbott’s trafficking of Ohio State current player memorabilia, save a stealth eBay account or three, seems to have ground to a halt.

Sufficiently shunned at the ‘Shoe, there was only one thing left for a hopeless black-marketer like Talbott to do.

Work MGOBLUE.

Dennis Talbott Facebook Photo Gallery

(All of Talbott’s shots from the Michigan-W. Michigan game on Sept. 3)

Thanks to his previous association with a small sports photo distribution company called Icon SMI - derived only from the legitimacy provided by OSU sideline access - Talbott was given sideline photographer media credentials by Michigan for its opening game of the season against Western Michigan. A staggering fact of which, if Talbott’s profile photo on his personal Facebook account is any indication, he’s quite proud.

As he’s paid by Icon SMI only for individual shots bought by media outlets, Talbott’s relationship with company has always been more about accesss to players than actual compensation. So it was gravy for him to be paid - albeit a modest sum - by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for this shot of Denard Robinson from the Sept. 3 game:

Dennis Talbott shot of Denard Robinson

(Okay I added the inset)

Probably not a coincidence that Talbott’s prize-winning shot was of Denard Robinson, considering the seeming vast demand (and supply) of Denard Robinson-signed” items for sale online. (Here’s another sweet 16 shot from the artist formerly know as “D. Jay Talbott” - coming to an eBay auction near you!)

So far there’s no obvious indication that Talbot transacted monetary gain from UM media access like he did Ohio State, but remember, our favorite fake photog isn’t a trader - he’s an investor!

Don’t believe me? Ask Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington.

While still current Ohio State players, Gibson and Worthington were receiving a wide variety of NCAA-rule-violating benefits from Columbus-based NFL agent Brad Cicala as Talbott was employing his photography-fueled grift. So if Talbott wanted a Pryor-like arrangement with Gibson and Worthington, he’d have to go through an NFL agent.

Below is a shot from an ESPN’s Outside The Lines investigative piece in which Talbott was seen - coincidentally or not - outside the office complex where Cicala’s Columbus agency was located.

Dennis Talbott outside Brad Cicala's office on ESPN's Outside The Lines

(More from ESPN’s exhaustive reporting on Talbott)

Cicala also currently reps journeyman NFL player and former Buckeye Roy Hall. It was Hall who helped Cicala connect the NFL agent with then-current Buckeye Worthington - who helped Cicala get in with Gibson, a former Cleveland-area high school star. Cicala later signed Gibson as an NFL client, a coup considering Gibson’s Ohio State position coach at the time was Luke Fickell - who has long been known for his close relationship with Cleveland-area NFL agent Neil Cornrich.

Helping Cicala land Worthington and Gibson was benefits like sweet seats to the Oct. 28, 2009, Jay-Z concert in Columbus, an actual recording studio in Gibson’s Columbus apartment and, of course, Cicala’s arrangement with Talbott.

But then again, who’s to say Worthington and Gibson wouldn’t have signed with Cicala anyway!

Just look at OSU booster Bobby DiGeronimo, who enjoyed the company of dozens of Buckeyes over the years at his annual charity event in Cleveland despite providing them no benefits of any kind.

Why, I still can’t believe Bobby D. threw away his 30-year relationship with Ohio State because, in a completely isolated case, he felt like paying three Ohio State football players $200 each at his 2011 charity event.

Three players who’d never started a game.

With envelopes.

Did I mention it was a one-time deal?

Brooks can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and directly at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com

Pryor Sells Out OSU For Few Lousy Game Checks

In the Sept. 1, 2011, report to the NCAA from Ohio State that resulted in the suspensions of Buckeye football players Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown, OSU reported that the violations were “discovered” by the school on “August 31, 2011.”

Terrelle Pryor tells on Ohio State to NCAA only to help his NFL appeal

As of Sept. 13, 2011, Terrelle Pryor’s last Tweet was … wait for it … August 31, 2011.

For all we know, Ohio State “discovering” seven month-old NCAA violations the exact day Pryor began an indefinite Tweet-free streak is complete coincidence.

Along with the fact that Pryor is currently appealing a five-game NFL suspension - after filing paperwork with the league on August 26.

But considering Pryor did indeed recently rat out his former Ohio State teammates to the NCAA in a brazen bid to curry favor with the same intercollegiate body to which the NFL ceded - blocking Pryor’s immediate admission into the league - it’s not unreasonable to think that’s why Pryor is hiding from the public. (And his former teammates in Columbus.)

Terrelle Pryor at Charity Event in Cleveland where 3 Ohio State players were paid

(Pryor: Sold Out His School Only To Aid NFL Appeal)

Especially ironic when you consider Pryor was one of the guys who helped round up Hall, Howard and Brown for the charity event that cost them their eligibility - but only after Pryor sold them down the river!

Okay, maybe it isn’t ironic.

Brooks can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and directly at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com

Exclusive: Pearl Endures ESPN Employ Embargo

Terrelle Pryor’s escape from the burning building that is the Ohio State football program straight onto an ESPN set is firmly esconced in the long, illustrious history of unintentionally comedic ESPN programming decisions.

Bruce Pearl

But while Pryor was deified by ESPN mere hours after the extra-beneficiary torched future OSU football fortunes, the same can’t be said for another notorious NCAA arsonist: former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl. Read more…

Guy Paying Pryor Hides Buckeye Memorabilia Biz

Tuesday I reported that the NCAA had discovered checks passed from Columbus freelance photographer Dennis Talbott to former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in exchange for signing Buckeye memorabilia while Pryor was still in school. (At the beginning of each school year, the NCAA has all student-athletes sign a consent form which allows the intercollegiate governing body to access their bank records at any time.)

Terrelle Pryor signed items for Dennis Talbott who sold them on Ebay and through Varsity O Memorabiiia operation

(Top Left Pryor Photo Has Ebay Watermark (Bottom Right Of Image))

Talbott, who was formally banned from associating with the Ohio State football program by the school last year and owns a Buckeye-themed vehicle with the vanity plate “T PRYOR”, was also seen selling autographed Pryor memorabilia on Ebay as recently as three days ago.

Dennis Talbott selling game-used Ohio State player-only memorabilia on Ebay

Using the Ebay screen name “infickellwetrust“, Talbott has since pulled all 250 items he had listed off the website. Among those items was signed memorabilia from Pryor along with game-used, autographed items from multiple former Ohio State Buckeye football players.

In the 48 hours since I reported those revelations, I’ve learned of an additional, stand-alone operation that Talbott has used to sell Ohio State football memorabilia. Talbott calls the business, which is unregistered in the state of Ohio, Varsity O Memorabilia.

Dennis Talbott Varsity O Memorabilia Operation

A current “Varsity O Memorabilia” Facebook page, last updated in April, features some of the product procured by Talbott over the years from dozens of Buckeye football and basketball players. Many of the items seen signed in the Facebook photos came from then-current Ohio State players like Terrelle Pryor and Ted Ginn, Jr. 

Ted Ginn, Jr., Terrelle Pryor signing for Dennis Talbott

In the top-left photo Ginn is seen signing an Ohio State football helmet which may have seen game action while the above Pryor photo features an Ebay watermark in the bottom right corner of the image.

Also seen in the Facebook photos either signing memorabilia for Talbott or posing for photos later autographed by the subject are A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Maurice Wells, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Chris Wells, Mike D’Andrea, Troy Smith, Quinn Pitcock - among other former Buckeye football and basketball players.

Some of the photos of Talbott’s memorabilia procurement were taken at officially-sanctioned Ohio State events, so newly-ousted OSU coach Jim Tressel is seen on more than one occasion signing various items for Talbott.

Jim Tressel signing memorabilia for Dennis Talbott

In the montage above, the Tressel-signed photo Talbott was selling on Ebay last Wednesday was identical to the photo Tressel was seen signing for Talbott in the above Facebook picture uploaded on March 11, 2011. A copy of the same signed image was also seen framed in a “Limited Edition” album as part of Talbott’s Varsity O Memorabilia Facebook page.

In one particular “Varsity O” Facebook promotional page photo, the former Ohio State football coach is seen signing a Buckeye football mini helmet. At the bottom of the picture is the web address VARSITYOMEN.com.

Jim Tressel signing memorabilia for Dennis Talbott

The cell phone number listed for Talbott on his photographer media credential for the Columbus-based This Week In Football publication and in Federal and Delaware County, Ohio, court documents matches the telephone contact number for the only person ever registered as owner of the VARSITYOMEM.com website. The site URL, which was first purchased in 2007, is no longer operable.

On August 14, 2007, a person with the screen name “VarsityOMem” posted a promotional message for an Agonis Club of Columbus event in which the Ohio State Buckeyes football team would be appearing.

Dennis Talbott Board Member Of Agonis Club of Columbus

A public records search this week for “Dennis J. Talbott” confirmed that he has served as a board member for Agonis Club of Columbus.

While the extent of the relationship between Talbott and Pryor is not known, at the very least it has now been verified that Talbott was recently - earlier this week - selling Pryor-signed merchandise on Ebay. In addition, I can now confirm that Talbott sold photos and footballs signed by Pryor in 2008.

Terrelle Pryor signed items for Dennis Talbott who sold them on Ebay and through Varsity O Memorabiiia operation

Worthpoint.com, which archives Ebay auctions, has records of at least three Pryor auctions in late 2008 executed by Talbott’s Varsity O memorabilia operation. That unregistered business also auctioned off a signed photo of Buckeye football players Smith, Ginn, Donte Whitner, Jamario O’Neal, and Curtis Terry in 2006, a Wells-signed football in 2007 and an autographed picture of DeVier Posey and Lamar Thomas in 2008.

Many of the photos signed by Buckeye players for Talbott - if not all - were taken by Talbott himself. Until recently, Talbott was granted full media access to the Ohio State football and basketball teams by the school’s athletic department as a photographer. Though, in his work for Icon SMI, Talbott was not paid for his assignments - only for the individual photos he sold to media outlets.

Dennis Talbott selling game-used Ohio State player-only memorabilia on Ebay

It was that same, unfettered access provided by the Ohio State Athletics and Compliance Departments that allowed Talbott to obtain autographs from innumerable Ohio State football and basketball players for many years, which he subsequently benefited from financially and otherwise.

That’s precisely the reason why he was finally cut off from those high profile Ohio State athletes and placed on blacklist by OSU athletic department officials I’ve confirmed as reservd for those officially disassociated from the program.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates

Exclusive: Pryor Left OSU Paper Trail For NCAA

Ohio State announced today that Terrelle Pryor would not be returning for his senior year at the school. No reason for the star quarterback’s departure was given at the time by OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith or current interim football coach Luke Fickell.

Dennis Talbott

(Pro photographer Dennis Talbott’s Ebay account: Pryor-signed item)

In addition to Pryor’s past NCAA transgressions, today I confirmed that Ohio State was recently cited by NCAA enforcment officials for dozens of payments Pryor received in past years from a Columbus sports memorabilia dealer that are considered outside of NCAA rules.

The NCAA violations were discovered when the name of the local memorabilia dealer, Dennis Talbott, was seen on checks Pryor was depositing in his personal bank account.

During Pryor’s time at Ohio State, Talbott paid him tens of thousands of dollars to sign Ohio State Buckeye memorabilia. Talbott currently lists a Pryor-signed item for sale on his Ebay sellers account, which is identified by the account name “infickellwetrust.”

Talbott, who has sold hundreds of sports memorabilia items on Ebay, recently switched to that account name from his old handle: “ntresselwetrust.” Talbott currently lists 250 items for sale on the auction site, including Ohio State Buckeye football memorabilia.

Talbott, who also happens to be a professional sports photographer who has shot images appearing on SI.com and ESPN.com, often obtained media credentials from Ohio State officials that gave him undue access to Buckeye football players.

Midway through the 2010 football season, Talbott was ordered by Ohio State officials to completely disassociate himself from the program. That move by the OSU athletic administration may indicate that members of the school’s athletic department knew of Pryor’s activities involving Talbott long before the NCAA recently discovered the payment paper trail from Talbott to the former Buckeye quarterback.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates

Docs: OSU President Knew Of Faulty Compliance

One month before a United States Department of Justice letter to Ohio State uncovered a massive pattern of NCAA rule violations within the school’s football program, official Ohio State internal audit documents show Ohio State President Gordon Gee and OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith knew that the Ohio State compliance department - led by former NCAA enforcement official Doug Archie - had failed to properly monitor dozens of OSU student-athletes for potential violations of NCAA rules.


In a November 1, 2010, report to Gee and Smith, a four-person internal audit of Archie’s Ohio State compliance department reported the following to President Gee and AD Smith:

Ohio State Internal Audit Of NCAA Rules Compliance November 2010

During our audit, we analyzed Student Athlete Vehicle Registration information for 152 student athletes, and we physically observed vehicles driven by football players upon arrival at spring practice. We noted the following issues:

  • 19 student athletes purchased parking permits from University Transportation and Parking for vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.
  • 22 student athletes received parking citations from University Transportation and Parking for vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.
  • 3 football players were observed driving vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.

Recommendation:

We recommend that the Department of Athletics investigate the aforementioned discrepancies and confirm that no NCAA regulations were violated. The Department of Athletics should increase monitoring activities by observing vehicles driven by student athletes and by working with University Transportation and Parking to periodically review parking permit registrations and issued citations to assure proper registration of vehicles.

Six months later the acquisition, registration and operation of vehicles by dozens of Ohio State football players is now under investigation by the NCAA and subject to intense media scrutiny. In the past week, Ohio State football star Terrelle Pryor has been seen driving a vehicle on campus and at the OSU football facility despite his license being suspended.

On Jan. 2, 2011, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported:

Three times in the past three years, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was stopped for traffic violations while driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car lot where the salesman worked, according to traffic citations obtained by The Dispatch.

Ohio State is aware of two of those infractions, and an investigation determined nothing improper had occurred, said Doug Archie, associate athletic director for compliance. He was unaware of an incident that occurred in October 2008 and said yesterday that he would investigate it.

On May 7, 2011, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported:

Ohio State University’s chief enforcer of NCAA rules [Doug Archie] said yesterday that he will investigate used-car purchases made by dozens of OSU athletes at two Columbus car dealers to see if any sale violated collegiate rules.

The investigation was initiated after The Dispatch found in public records that at least eight Ohio State athletes and 11 athletes’ relatives bought used cars from Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct during the past five years. The investigation will involve outside experts and examine at least 50 sales, focusing on whether the athletes received improper benefits.

The common thread in those two dozen transactions was the salesman: Aaron Kniffin, who has worked at both dealerships.

“I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred,” he [Archie] said.

More:

Kniffin told The Dispatch that he has sold cars to at least four dozen OSU athletes and their relatives, that the OSU compliance staff directed them to him, and that university officials reviewed all documents before sales were final.

Archie said that he has spoken to Kniffin only once, never reviews sales documents and has not directed players to any dealerships.

But on May 27, 2011, Matt Hayes of THE SPORTING NEWS reported:

Doug Archie has called me well over 50 times,” Kniffin said. “This year alone, I’ve talked to him 25-30 times. You can print out your Verizon (phone) bills; his numbers are right there calling me.”

When asked why Archie, who did not immediately respond to voice mail messages, said he only spoke to Kniffin once and denied that the deals were approved by OSU compliance, Kniffin said, “That’s something you’ll have to ask him. I’ve got records of it.

Three days later, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported that apparently the NCAA wasn’t so sure about Archie’s repeated assurances that no NCAA violations had occurred during vehicle purchase and loan transactions involving Pryor:

The NCAA and the Ohio State University’s compliance office are conducting an independent investigation of Terrelle Pryor amid allegations that the star quarterback may have received cars and other extra benefits, sources told The Dispatch today.

Pryor has been questioned by OSU compliance officials in the past, but sources said this is the most significant inquiry to date. He already has been interviewed at least once by investigators within the past few weeks, sources said. 

The Ohio State internal audit of the school’s NCAA rules compliance led by Archie also examined OSU’s practice of providing apparel, equipment and awards to student-athletes. From the report:

Ohio State Internal Audit Of NCAA Rules Compliance November 2010

The Department of Athletics has purchased and implemented an inventory system to manage and monitor the issuance of equipment and apparel to student athletes. Although the use of this system has strengthened the Department of Athletics’ management of inventory and helps to reasonably assure compliance with NCAA regulations, we did identify the following opportunities to more effectively and consistently utilize the system and manage inventory:

Consistency – The process for managing inventory is not consistent among the different sports. Inventory management is left to the discretion of the individual sports managers.

  • Documentation – Some sports do not document the use of all equipment and apparel.
  • System Utilization – Some sports do not utilize all of the features of the inventory system.
  • System Deletions – Individual sports managers have the ability to delete inventory items, for which they are responsible, from the inventory system without any form of independent review or mitigating control.
  • Participation Awards – Participation awards (e.g., letter jackets, rings, etc.) are the responsibility of the Equipment Room but currently are not inventoried.

Recommendation:

We recommend that the Department of Athletics strengthen inventory management procedures and controls to ensure consistency among all sports, accountability for all inventory items, and utilization of the inventory system to its fullest capability.

Thanks to these Ohio State internal audit documents, it has now been confirmed that OSU President Gee and Athletic Director Smith already knew of the failure by Ohio State compliance to inventory and track the aforementioned “participation awards” and “equipment and apparel”  which likely contributed to Buckeye football players selling and trading those same items - along with football tickets - for cash, tattoos, cars and other extra benefits. (As documented in the DOJ letter to the school on December 7, 2010.) (Or as the NCAA likes to put it in its infraction reports to schools, “should have known.”)

The eventual discovery of those activities by Federal authorities in April, 2010, eventually led to five Ohio State football players, including Pryor, to be suspended for five games during the 2011 season and contributed the resignation of coach Jim Tressel.

Despite in recent months Ohio State twice reporting NCAA violations involving the school’s football program, and their prior knowledge of the lack of compliance by Ohio State student-athletes as detailed by their own internal audit, President Gee and Athletic Director Smith have continued to publicly laud the OSU compliance department.

Ohio State Internal Audit Of NCAA Rules Compliance November 2010

On March 8, Gee said of the Ohio State NCAA rules compliance department:

“I want to thank our folks in athletics who have done a tremendous job in dealing with some serious issues and have done it precisely the way I would expect.

I want to confirm to each and every one of you that our university has followed every protocol in every way as expeditiously and forthrightly as we should and as I would expect .. ”

” ..  I want to be very clear about that in no way does this university shed its responsibility in this effort and that it has followed its protocol.”

It was at the same press conference that, when asked if he was considering firing Jim Tressel, Gee uttered the now infamous words:

“No. Are you kidding? Let me just be very clear, I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Two days later, on March 10, Gee backtracked from the latter gaffe but reiterated his support for Ohio State compliance to WBNS-TV in Columbus:

“We would not be so confident in what we’ve done (in NCAA rules compliance) if there was a smoking gun. If there was another shoe to drop, absolutely not.

48 hours ago Ohio State President Gordon Gee said of the school’s compliance department:

We legitimately have the best compliance system in the country.

He also reiterated that Athletic Director Gene Smith’s employment status was not subject to change and that further resignations of OSU employees were not in the offing.

Gee’s most recent comments in full support of his athletic administration came three days after the resignation of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

A resignation that Gee has confirmed he supported.

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Pryor Gone Wild: Where Is Columbus Police Dept?

Just when you think you’ve seen it all at Ohio State with the insanity happening inside the football program, you get what we got today.


Despite it being widely chronicled now that Terrelle Pryor has been driving with a suspended license for weeks, Wednesday Pryor was caught - once again - driving illegally by WSYX-TV in Columbus.

WCMH-TV in Columbus reported Wednesday of Pryor’s 90-day license suspension:

It was unclear Tuesday if Pryor had been granted driving privileges, but the Franklin County Clerk of Courts told NBC4 Wednesday that Pryor was not given driving privileges.

To make matters worse, two individuals appearing to be affiliated with Ohio State were spotted by WSYX cameras guarding Pryor as he got into his car in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center parking lot on the Ohio State campus.

Where is the Ohio State and Columbus Police Department?

Ohio State President Gordon Gee? Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith? Ohio State Compliance Director Doug Archie?

Do laws not matter in Columbus if you’re a Buckeye?

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Pryor Offenses: QB Loses Coach, Keeps Dealer?

In the aftermatch of Jim Tressel’s forced resignation today, Tressel’s replacement for the 2011 season, Luke Fickell, called a team meeting on Monday evening in Columbus.

(Monday night: NCAA-targeted Pryor in late model car with temporary tags)

During WBNS-TV reporter Dan Fronczak’s live standup outside the site of the meeting, the Columbus television station aired video of Terrelle Pryor arriving at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the all-hands gathering of Buckeye football players.

Part of that footage showed Pryor driving a late model vehicle outfitted with a temporary tag dated May 24. Here is a photo of the car, which is a 2007 Nissan 350Z:

Terrelle Pryor 2007 350Z

Four hours earlier, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported that the NCAA was currently investigating Pryor’s use of vehicles while enrolled as a football player at Ohio State - and before he signed with the school in 2008.

The NCAA and the Ohio State University’s compliance office are conducting an independent investigation of Terrelle Pryor amid allegations that the star quarterback may have received cars and other extra benefits, sources told The Dispatch today.

Pryor has been questioned by OSU compliance officials in the past, but sources said this is the most significant inquiry to date. He already has been interviewed at least once by investigators within the past few weeks, sources said.

Pryor and the cars he drives have been an issue since he arrived on campus three years ago. Pryor has been connected to more than a half dozen vehicles during his time at Ohio State, according to sources.

OSU officials previously said that even before Pryor arrived on campus in 2008, the NCAA examined the ownership of his vehicle and how it was paid for.

In January, The Dispatch reported that three times in the past three years, Pryor was stopped for traffic violations while driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car dealer for whom the salesman worked.

The salesman, Aaron Kniffin, told The Dispatch that while working at Jack Maxton Chevrolet in 2008, he allowed Pryor to drive his SUV to his hometown in Pennsylvania so that his mother could check it out. Pryor did not buy the vehicle.

Kniffin also said he arranged for Pryor to use a 2009 Dodge while Pryor’s car was being repaired at Auto Direct, a Columbus car dealership where Kniffin worked last fall.

About two dozen autographed jerseys hang inside Auto Direct’s office, including Pryor’s.

Kniffin also sold cars to Pryor’s mother and brother as well as dozens of other Buckeye athletes or their family members.

The temporary license tag on the late model vehicle Pryor was driving Monday evening on the Ohio State campus did not match the license plate cited in court records for Pryor’s most recent, documented traffic stops on April 4, 2010, and Feb. 17, 2011.

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