Less than 24 hours after the Sports Illustrated article detailing former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's pattern a misdeeds at Ohio State, one of the article's central characters called the entire piece a lie.
Ray Isaac, a former Youngstown State player who played for and subsequently broke NCAA rules while Tressel was the coach of the Penguins, told 790 The Zone in Atlanta that he never spoke to SI co-author David Epstein and that the article was a compilation of other articles all jumbled together.
"The article is a big lie. I think that I've only done two interviews since 1991, since all the allegations came out. … I did both of those interviews in 2003 and I was displeased with how those articles came out. So I have not done another interview since then. I'm very displeased with the article. The article is chewed up. If you look at the paragraph that goes into what I was allegedly to have said, it is poorly written. It doesn't give any facts or clarity…
"Jim Tressel is as good a man as you'll ever meet. It's almost to the point where it's hokey; you would think he is phony. Jim Tressel is like the person you want to be when you grow up. … He's always treated me like a son, always got on my case. I'm just appalled by the lack of facts in the article concerning me and him. … It almost looked like he read 50 articles of the Jim Tressel/Ray Isaac situation and mixed them all together and then wrote a paragraph because he could not get any words out of my mouth."
After word of Isaac's allegations were presented to Epstein, he took to Twitter to defend himself, saying that he had spoken with Isaac and his wife Staci several times on the phone and has the phone records to prove it (read tweets from the bottom up).
However, the information about Isaac is not really the heart of the SI story, which not only reveals that 28 Ohio State players have been involved in trading memorabilia for tattoos and marijuana, but that Ohio Sate has been complicit in allowing this to go on under the school's compliance watch.
Isaac's story, which chronicles his link with wealthy school trustee named Mickey Monus, who gave Isaac cash and car deals under Tressel's watch, is not new information. It's public court record and several stories have been written about it, including an expose by ESPN in 2004. So for Isaac to characterize the entire piece as a lie is inaccurate, at least as far as we know, unless he's now claiming to have intimate knowledge of the dealings at Ohio State.
Isaac did tell SI that Tressel knew about the car Monus gave him and that he asked Tressel for help to get out of traffic tickets. However, Isaac disputes that those conversations ever took place.
"Number one, I'm totally responsible for what I did at Youngstown State University. Every year, from the time I was on campus, from '88 to '91, Tressel had compliance seminars — not to deal with bookies, not to deal with drugs, not to deal with not buying or selling anything. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I met [booster] Mickey Monus. It is implied that on the first meeting that I had with Mickey Monus that I received $150. That is the biggest lie ever told. … Jim Tressel never ever knew anything about our dealings. I kept it secret. To say Coach Tressel knew about this car, or knew about this money, listen, the only way that anyone knew about the money I received from Youngstown State University was Mickey Monus got indicted on $1.1 million worth of embezzlement and fraud. In documents and public record, they found checks that were written to me. … That's the only way that this situation came to light. … Other than that, no one in the history of the world would have known the Mickey Monus paid me a dime."
Isaac, who currently runs High Impact Football, a quarterback-coaching business in Cary, N.C., is a self-proclaimed advocate of Jim Tressel. The SI article said Isaac calls Tressel a "surrogate dad" and during his interview with 790 The Zone in Atlanta, Isaac claims Tressel was trying to protect his players.
Perhaps, just like one of Tressel's players is trying to do for him now.