- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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You'd have to be pretty naïve to think memorabilia sales at Ohio State were tied to Terrelle Pryor and his crew.
This has been a problem for years, not only at Ohio State but at other big-time programs around the country. You can buy championship rings and other memorabilia items on the Web at sites such as this one.
Former Ohio State wide receiver Ray Small provided more evidence in an illuminating interview with The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper. Small, always one for colorful quotes during his turbulent Buckeyes career, continued to generate buzz by saying he sold memorabilia items for cash and received car deals while at Ohio State. And according to Small, "everyone was doing it."
Some tidbits from Small in The Lantern:
"I had sold my things but it was just for the money. At that time in college, you're kind of struggling."
"We had four Big Ten rings. There was enough to go around."
"It was definitely the deals on the cars. I don't see why it's a big deal," said Small, who identified Jack Maxton Chevrolet as the players' main resource.
"If you go in and try to get a tattoo, and somebody is like 'Do you want 50 percent off this tattoo?' You're going to say, 'Heck yeah.'"
"They have a lot [of dirt] on everybody, 'cause everybody was doing it."
What about the NCAA rules? Weren't players aware?
"They explain the rules to you, but as a kid you're not really listening to all of them rules," Small said. "You go out and you just, people show you so much love, you don't even think about the rules. You're just like 'Ah man, it's cool.' You take it, and next thing you know the NCAA is down your back."
Former Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins also talked with The Lantern and said players were informed about what they could and could not do.
"What the players go out and do on their own time and make their own decisions is on them," Jenkins said. "I know [the compliance department] puts things in place to give us knowledge of the rules, give us education on how to deal with those situations, but what the players do with that is another story."
Jenkins brings up a good point. Ohio State can't have compliance staffers following players around 24-7. The culture of entitlement exists in Columbus -- not unlike many places immersed in college sports -- and Ohio State players are treated as royalty. It's tough for young men to turn down benefits, especially men struggling to get by financially.
But it's clear Ohio State didn't get a handle on this issue until it was too late. Now the NCAA is involved and coach Jim Tressel, as well as the compliance department, seem to be in the crosshairs. Tressel will go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12, and investigations into the used-car transactions are still ongoing.
In December, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith had this to say: "There are no other NCAA violations around this case. We’re very fortunate that we do not have a systemic problem in our program. This is isolated to these young men, and isolated to this particular instance."
Some might point to Small's credibility as an issue here. He was in Tressel's doghouse for much of his career and struggled to stay on track academically. But aside from publicity, what incentive does Small have to lie?
Small's comments are noteworthy, but they're not surprising after what we heard from Antonio Pittman and others after the tattoo story broke. It's just another layer to a story that just isn't going away.