Big Ten: Aaron Kniffin

There's good news for the embattled Ohio State football program Tuesday as the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles has found no evidence Buckeyes football players or their families received improper deals on cars.

The car issue surfaced after allegations that two Columbus-area car dealerships had sold cars to Ohio State players and their families at special rates. The NCAA recently launched a separate investigation into former Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his car usage while at Ohio State.
The BMV's 65-page report issued Tuesday said the certificates of titles for cars sold by Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct to players and families accurately reflected the vehicles' sales prices.

This takes some of the heat off of Ohio State's compliance department, which had been questioned in how closely it monitored car deals.

As I've written for weeks, the car sales issue isn't Ohio State's biggest problem. Given the gray area around used cars and sales prices, it's difficult to prove NCAA violations occurred. Still, the BMV's report bodes well for Ohio State at its upcoming hearing before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.

The allegations of memorabilia sales among players are potentially much more damaging for Ohio State. Individuals such as Edward Rife and Dennis Talbott are likely more significant than Aaron Kniffin in the NCAA's investigation of the program.

The school must prove memorabilia sales are not a systematic problem; that the seemingly hurried December investigation into sales involving Rife and players was sufficient; and that enough was done to educate and monitor the players in this area.

Ohio State players, coaches and administrators remained silent a day after Jim Tressel announced his resignation as head coach.

No formal news conferences have been scheduled, and interim head coach Luke Fickell might only speak publicly next week. The day was not without an update on the Terrelle Pryor/car situation, including the release of a sworn affidavit by car salesman Aaron Kniffin.

"The deals that I did for Ohio State student-athletes were no different than any of the other 10,000-plus deals that I've done for all my other customers," Aaron Kniffin said in the statement. "... OSU student-athletes weren't given any enticements to buy the car at my dealership. At no time did memorabilia come into play when it came time to negotiate a deal or buy a car. I was never given any memorabilia from a student-athlete in exchange for a car deal."

Colleague Pat Forde was in Columbus on Tuesday, and captures the mood on and around campus the day after Tressel's resignation.

Some tidbits from Forde's column:

  • Often using the past tense, Ohio State fans celebrated the good civic deeds and great football accomplishments of Jim Tressel, while lamenting a resignation they saw as inevitable.
  • Although some students question some of the rules, they don't blame the NCAA for enforcing them. Although they question some of the coverage, they don't blame the media for investigating. They do, however, energetically blame quarterback Terrelle Pryor. One item not selling this week at College Traditions: authentic No. 2 jerseys ($150) in both red and white. That's the number Pryor wears. On previous fall Saturdays, there were thousands of fans wearing them in the stands at Ohio Stadium. Don't expect that to be the case this fall.
  • Several [students] said they'd heard about the tattoo scam, and several mentioned the late-model cars they've seen football players drive. "I'm driving a 2000 Isuzu Rodeo," laughed senior Jeff Whaley. "And I work. You see the nice watch, nice earrings. You see the cars and wonder." In reality, the students do more than just wonder. They know. So do the older fans who pay the big money for tickets and buy those jerseys. They know, but they don't want to know. This is the same everywhere. They want to believe there is a perfectly good reason the star player is driving an expensive car, or why his family has moved to town, or why he has $250 earphones around his neck.

Colleague Gene Wojciechowski also writes about Ohio State student reporter Zack Meisel and the backlash he has received since The Lantern reported its illuminating interview with former Ohio State receiver Ray Small.

Colleague Bruce Feldman also weighs in with a look at what Ohio State can learn from the USC situation (Insider).

I had a conversation this morning with a buddy who said he thinks the heavy sanctions would scare a lot of these candidates away from pursuing the OSU job. I disagree. Even if the sanctions are along the lines of what USC got -- loss of several scholarships and a multiyear postseason ban -- I still believe a lot of big names will be attracted to the position.

I agree. Ohio State football remains an elite brand in college football with the resources to compete for national championships. There will be enough interest from top candidates.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 23, 2011
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Happy Monday.
While Ohio State's compliance department continues to review used-car sales involving athletes and their relatives, concerns about one talked-about transaction can be put to rest.

The Columbus Dispatch reports Tuesday that former Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Thaddeus Gibson did, in fact, pay for a car he purchased in 2007. An older title on the vehicle shows Gibson paid $13,700 for a 2007 Chrysler 300C that he bought from salesman Aaron Kniffin at the Jack Maxton dealership. The current title on the car shows the purchase price at $0, as originally reported, but Gibson told the newspaper that he's still making payments on the car and the new report verifies it.

Although Ohio State isn't out of the woods, the truth about Gibson's situation certainly is a good sign. Having been on several radio shows to discuss the Ohio State situation since the initial Dispatch report came out, I can say the Gibson car sale was brought up more than once.

Another tidbit in Tuesday's Dispatch report is that Kniffin didn't sell a car to the mother of former Ohio State running back Maurice Wells. The car, registered to Wells' mother and step-father, was used as a trade-in when Maurice Wells bought a car from Kniffin in 2006.

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