August 10, 2011
So, remember the letter the NCAA sent Ohio State a few weeks back informing OSU it wouldn't be facing any additional charges on top of the two major violations outlined earlier in the summer? And the relief that news inspired in beleaguered Buckeye fans?
Tonight, ESPN's Pat Forde says they may want to put the optimism on hold:
INDIANAPOLIS -- As Ohio State heads into its Friday meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, it appears the school's dealings with the NCAA over problems within its football program will not end there.
According to multiple sources, the NCAA notified Ohio State by letter last week that it is still investigating other issues involving the football program.
The result could be a second notice of allegations and a second trip through the NCAA justice system.
Ohio State has not publicly disclosed the existence of the letter.
Not only has it not publicly disclosed it — after Forde's report hit the web, Ohio State publicly denied it, telling the Columbus Dispatch "[t]he university has not received any additional allegations from the NCAA" and "[does] not anticipate discussing any additional allegations."
As it stands, Ohio State isn't out of the woods with regard to the two original violations it faces at the moment, which charge a) Former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other players with accepting improper benefits in the form of free tattoos, cash and other favors in exchange for memorabilia, and b) Former coach Jim Tressel with covering up knowledge of the benefits through the 2010 season and beyond. Those are the accusations OSU will have to answer for when it goes in front of the Committee on Infractions this weekend, and as of right now, they're the only accusations it will have to answer for.
If it stays that way, the Buckeyes could escape relatively unscathed, all things considered. Somehow, the NCAA bought Ohio State's argument that Tressel's intentional coverup of violations did not amount to a "lack of institutional control" or even a "failure to monitor" because the university promptly reported to the NCAA when it learned about the coverup in January, suspended the offending players, suspended, fined and eventually fired Tressel and vacated a dozen wins earned with ineligible players on the field. From the looks of it, that will be enough to avoid harsher, USC-level penalties on the order of a bowl ban and/or heavy scholarship losses.
If there are any additional charges in the pipeline, as Forde suggests, they almost certainly stem from ESPN reports in June that Pryor earned tens of thousands of dollars over the course of his Buckeye career by selling his autograph and other items, and possibly "indulged" in verboten favors such as — brace yourself — free golf. There's also the matter of the array of new vehicles Pryor not-so-subtly drove around campus, though it's uncertain whether his purchases/loans were among those cleared of any shady dealing by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
All of those accusations broke after the NCAA had essentially wrapped up its investigation into the Tressel coverup, after both Tressel and Pryor had exited the premises, and could conceivably remain "open" on the NCAA's books. The "evidence" in the Pryor memorabilia story — essentially boiling down to the word of a former roommate who said he saw the transactions take place — is nowhere near the smoking gun university compliance types found on Jim Tressel's hard drive. But it's more than enough to get the Buckeyes sweating again if it shows up in another notice of allegations.