More OSU trouble: Pryor the subject of an independent NCAA investigation

It's only been half a day since Jim Tressel resigned as head coach at Ohio State, and now his star quarterback could be out the door as well.

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the NCAA and Ohio State are doing an independent investigation into Terrelle Pryor and whether he may have received extra benefits.

The NCAA and the Ohio State University's compliance office are conducting an independent investigation of Terrelle Pryor amid allegations that the star quarterback may have received cars and other extra benefits, sources told The Dispatch today.

Pryor has been questioned by OSU compliance officials in the past, but sources said this is the most significant inquiry to date. He already has been interviewed at least once by investigators within the past few weeks, sources said.

Pryor and the cars he drives have been an issue since he arrived on campus three years ago. Pryor has been connected to more than a half dozen vehicles during his time at Ohio State, according to sources.

The paper reported in January that Pryor had been stopped for traffic violations three times in the past three years while driving cars, "that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car dealer for whom the salesman worked." The car dealership was Jack Maxton Chevrolet, the same dealer former wide receiver Ray Small referenced in his article in The Lantern last week.

Pryor, and four teammates, already have been suspended the first five games of the 2011 season after the NCAA determined that they had been selling their memorabilia.

If the NCAA or Ohio State decides to throw the book at Pryor, it would be an anticlimactic ending to a career that never really lived up to its promise.

Pryor was originally committed to play basketball at Pitt, but after a stellar football season his senior year, he blossomed into the nation's top recruit. He created buzz even before he chose Ohio State by holding a special signing ceremony after the Feb. 6 national signing day that pitted the Buckeyes against Penn State, Oregon and Michigan.

During his three years with Ohio State, Pryor helped lead the Buckeyes to three consecutive Big Ten titles and three BCS bowls. He's 31-4 as a starter and has three wins over rival Michigan. Pryor was the first freshman to start at quarterback for Ohio State since Art Schlichter in 1978. But he's never matured into the type of player he was hyped up to be and has never really been a contender to take Ohio State to a national championship level.
Among the areas the NCAA is investigating is Pryor's relationship with Ted Sarniak, a 67-year-old businessman from Pryor's hometown of Jeannette, Pa.

Doug Archie, OSU's director of compliance, said in March that Sarniak served as Pryor's contact person during Ohio State's recruiting efforts but is not considered a booster.

"Mr. Sarniak and Terrelle Pryor have been friends for a number of years, and their friendship dates back prior to Terrelle's enrollment at Ohio State," Archie said. "As the friendship developed, Mr. Sarniak is someone who Terrelle has reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career."

Sarniak has attended virtually every game, home and away, since Pryor enrolled in 2008.

Sarniak exchanged emails with Tressel last spring when the coach was tipped off that Pryor and others were selling memorabilia.

OSU released two of those emails but refuses to release any others, citing the federal student privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Pryor was supposed to be the defining player of coach Jim Tressel's career -- the Vince Young of Ohio State -- and that figure never materialized.

And there's no way to make up for that.

With the five game suspension to start the season, Pryor won't be in line to make a run at the Heisman Trophy. The Maxwell and Davey O'Brien are a stretch, too. In fact, all Pryor can do is make up for lost time and try to lead the Buckeyes from whatever record they emerge with after the conference opener against Michigan State on Oct. 1.

If he's still around.

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