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Friday, May 27, 2011
Ray Small: Reporter twisted my words

ESPN.com news services

Former Ohio State wide receiver Ray Small said Friday a campus newspaper twisted his words and that he has no knowledge of other players breaking NCAA rules.

"I've come back to retract my words, because there's two sides to every story, and I want to tell the world my side of the story," Small said in an interview Friday with Outside the Lines' Tom Farrey.

The newspaper, The Lantern, said it stands by its story and everything Small said is on tape. On Friday, Small said he sold his own memorabilia, but he never said everyone was doing it.

Small said he earned up to $2,000 from selling two of his Big Ten Championship rings while he was playing for the Buckeyes, acts that he knew at the time were in violation of NCAA rules.

Ray Small
Former Ohio State wide receiver Ray Small said Friday a campus newspaper twisted his words and that he has no knowledge of other players breaking NCAA rules.

He just didn't care -- or feel he had a choice. He needed the cash to make ends meet, he said.

"It was either break the rule or get evicted," Small told Outside the Lines on Friday. "That was the best thing I could do. It was the smartest plan I came up with to pay my rent."

Small, whose senior season with the Buckeyes was in 2009, said he sold the rings midway through his Buckeye career because his regular scholarship check for room and board didn't cover his year-round costs of living in Columbus. He also felt compelled to unload them because he lacked the funds to afford a car he was driving at the time, a 2007 Chrysler 300 that carried a $600 monthly payment.

"Being young, I wasn't good with my money," he said. "I made a bad decision on a car and I had to pay it."

Small found himself in the national headlines Wednesday when the student newspaper at Ohio State, The Lantern, published excerpts of a phone interview with him in which he seemed to suggest that teammates regularly received benefits in violation of NCAA rules. On Friday, Small claimed his comments were mischaracterized, and that he knows of no violations of NCAA rules by teammates.

At the same time, when asked by ESPN if he would disclose NCAA violations among teammates if he knew of them, he said no.

"I am a Buckeye at heart," he said.

Small said he acquired the Chrysler 300 through Aaron Kniffin, the former Columbus, Ohio, used car salesman whose transactions to football and other Buckeye athletes have come under scrutiny by officials from a state agency as well as the university's athletic compliance department. Kniffin confirmed to ESPN that he sold the car to Small, or more specifically his grandmother whose credit was used to qualify for the loan.

Small said during his time at Ohio State he drove three cars acquired through Kniffin who encouraged him to use other people to secure the financing. He lacked the credit to qualify for a loan on his own. He said one of the other cars was purchased through his parents, and the other through his then-girlfriend's mother.

He said he was referred to Kniffin by teammates, as the Jack Maxton Chevrolet and later Auto Direct salesman was popular among players. He said they gravitated to Kniffin because he was "cool" with Ohio State players, not because they believed he would give them the discounts based on their athletic stature.

It was either break the rule or get evicted. That was the best thing I could do. It was the smartest plan I came up with to pay my rent.

-- Former Ohio State receiver Ray Small

Small said The Lantern reporter asked him about deals players received on cars, and that his answer referred to the deal he felt he got.

"Everybody just knew it was quicker to get a car from Jack Max (Jack Maxton Chevrolet), so you know, when you go to Jack Max, you could pick who you want to get a car from," Small said. "Who said that they was giving deals, if so, I didn't get a deal. I wish I did."

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is investigating at least 50 transactions to try to determine whether athletes and their relatives received discounts not available to the public, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. Ohio State, which has suspended its investigation until the BMV investigation is complete, has said it has no reason to believe any violations occurred.

Small said he does not recall purchase prices of each of the cars. He does recall lots of oversight, led by athletic department compliance director, Doug Archie who he says often checked up on the dealership.

"We were not getting any deals because of Ohio State compliance," Small said. "He was on Aaron Kniffin's neck. He was up there every other day."

Regarding the rings, he said he gave them to a friend to sell and heard that they were purchased by memorabilia collectors. He said he did not know who those collectors were.

Small admitted that he sold "just a couple of my rings," which is a violation of NCAA rules, but said he never said the words "we were all doing it" to the Lantern.

"I never heard another player say he sold his ring," Small said.

Several Ohio State players have taken to Twitter to speak out against Small.

"Show me a coward and I will show you Ray Small," center Mike Brewster tweeted. "He isn't part of the sacred brotherhood anymore. Never on time, never accountable, never sacrificed for the team. Can you trust his word?"

It's possible one of Small's rings may have ended up with Ed Rife, the tattoo parlor owner who offered discounts and cash for player memorabilia. On April 16, 2010 Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel received an email from former player and lawyer Chris Cicero, who relayed information that Rife had allegedly shared with him as a potential client.

Cicero told Tressel, "He told me he has about nine rings Big Ten Championship" and listed three players including a "Roy Small," adding that name was "no surprise." Small had a checkered history with the program including a suspension for the final game of his career. He says he had failed a drug test.

Small told ESPN he has never met Rife, sold memorabilia to him, or been to his tattoo parlor, Fine Line Ink. On Friday, Rife was charged by federal authorities with money laundering and drug trafficking. During the FBI investigation, 36 items of Ohio State memorabilia were found at his home.

In December, Ohio State officials said they didn't do enough to educate players on NCAA rules that prohibit the sale of their own memorabilia. The school had just suspended five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who had sold between $12,000 and $15,000 worth of memorabilia.

Small, however, said he knew that he was breaking NCAA rules with the sale of his rings.

Not that Small plans to share as much with NCAA investigators, if they come asking. He said he would likely turn down any chance to document violations in a program he still feels a strong connection with.

"They can't do anything for me," he said. "I did it myself, nobody knew about it, that was that. I won't talk to them."

Information from Outside the Lines reporter Tom Farrey, OTL producer Justine Gubar and The Associated Press was used in this report.