- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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We know Jim Tressel won't be walking the sidelines for Ohio State this fall. But who takes the field for the Buckeyes remains very much in doubt.
The most damning part of Sports Illustrated's investigation into Tressel and the Ohio State program is the allegation that memorabilia sold for money and tattoos wasn't confined to the so-called "Tat-5" -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas -- who have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. The SI report names at least 28 players who allegedly traded memorabilia or autographs for money and tattoos since 2002, including nine players on the current roster.
The current players named in the report are: safety C.J. Barnett, linebacker Dorian Bell, running back Jaamal Berry, running back Bo DeLande, defensive back Zach Domicone, linebacker Storm Klein, linebacker Etienne Sabino, defensive tackle John Simon and defensive end Nathan Williams.
Several of those listed are expected to play significant roles this season, most notably Simon and Williams, returning starters on the defensive line. Sabino and Klein are in the mix at linebacker, while Berry competed for the top running back spot this spring.
From the SI piece:
Ohio State's conclusion that only six players broke the rules is based in part on a list of the items the Department of Justice seized in raids of Fine Line Ink and [Edward] Rife's home on May 1, 2010. But that list, which mentioned 42 football-related items that Rife bought, received or acquired in trades from players, covered only a small fraction of what he got from the Buckeyes, Ellis says. "Eddie had storage units all over town," he says, "and he also sold some stuff off to people." (Through Palmer, his lawyer, Rife declined to comment on his involvement with Ohio State players.) Ellis estimates that Pryor alone brought in more than 20 items, including game-worn shoulder pads, multiple helmets, Nike cleats, jerseys, game pants and more. One day Ellis asked Pryor how he was able to take so much gear from the university's equipment room. Ellis says the quarterback responded, "I get whatever I want."
Expect Ohio State and/or the NCAA to investigate these allegations. If the current players are found to have violated extra-benefit rules, they could face significant suspensions for the 2011 season.
Couple this with the new NCAA/Ohio State probe into Pryor and allegations he received cars and other extra benefits, and Ohio State's depth chart could be a mess heading into the 2011 season.
Other key points from the SI report:
Writers George Dohrmann and David Epstein paint the memorabilia sales among players as a systematic problem at Ohio State. It certainly calls into question athletic director Gene Smith's claim that the sales involving Pryor and the others were isolated. Ohio State's brief investigation into the memorabilia sales in December also looks shaky. The number of players alleged to have violated NCAA rules at two separate tattoo parlors, along with the time span in which these infractions possibly occurred, has to be unsettling. Former Ohio State player Rob Rose told SI that he traded memorabilia items for tattoos, as did 20 other players. With Tressel gone, much of the focus turns to Smith and Ohio State's compliance department. This report doesn't help them.
One element of the story that already is generating attention is the anecdote from a former colleague of Tressel's on Earle Bruce's staff at Ohio State. The former Buckeyes coach, who served with Tressel on Bruce's staff during the 1980s and asked to remain anonymous, told SI that Tressel rigged raffles at Ohio State's football camps so that elite prospects would win, a violation of NCAA rules. "In the morning he would read the Bible with another coach," the coach told SI. "Then, in the afternoon, he would go out and cheat kids who had probably saved up money from mowing lawns to buy those raffle tickets. That's Jim Tressel." If true, this is really creepy and disappointing.
The report also reviews Tressel's claims that he knew nothing about NCAA violations involving his players at both Youngstown State and at Ohio State. Those unaware of these aspects of Tressel's track record can get an education from this piece.
So there you have it. Quite a day in Columbus, and not much of a holiday for those of us covering the story.
We'll have much more on the fallout from Tressel's resignation and what's next for Ohio State on Tuesday, so be sure and check in early and often.