One month before a United States Department of Justice letter to Ohio State uncovered a massive pattern of NCAA rule violations within the school’s football program, official Ohio State internal audit documents show Ohio State President Gordon Gee and OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith knew that the Ohio State compliance department - led by former NCAA enforcement official Doug Archie - had failed to properly monitor dozens of OSU student-athletes for potential violations of NCAA rules.
In a November 1, 2010, report to Gee and Smith, a four-person internal audit of Archie’s Ohio State compliance department reported the following to President Gee and AD Smith:
During our audit, we analyzed Student Athlete Vehicle Registration information for 152 student athletes, and we physically observed vehicles driven by football players upon arrival at spring practice. We noted the following issues:
- 19 student athletes purchased parking permits from University Transportation and Parking for vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.
- 22 student athletes received parking citations from University Transportation and Parking for vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.
- 3 football players were observed driving vehicles they had not registered with the Department of Athletics.
We recommend that the Department of Athletics investigate the aforementioned discrepancies and confirm that no NCAA regulations were violated. The Department of Athletics should increase monitoring activities by observing vehicles driven by student athletes and by working with University Transportation and Parking to periodically review parking permit registrations and issued citations to assure proper registration of vehicles.
Six months later the acquisition, registration and operation of vehicles by dozens of Ohio State football players is now under investigation by the NCAA and subject to intense media scrutiny. In the past week, Ohio State football star Terrelle Pryor has been seen driving a vehicle on campus and at the OSU football facility despite his license being suspended.
On Jan. 2, 2011, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported:
Three times in the past three years, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was stopped for traffic violations while driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car lot where the salesman worked, according to traffic citations obtained by The Dispatch.
Ohio State is aware of two of those infractions, and an investigation determined nothing improper had occurred, said Doug Archie, associate athletic director for compliance. He was unaware of an incident that occurred in October 2008 and said yesterday that he would investigate it.
On May 7, 2011, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported:
Ohio State University’s chief enforcer of NCAA rules [Doug Archie] said yesterday that he will investigate used-car purchases made by dozens of OSU athletes at two Columbus car dealers to see if any sale violated collegiate rules.
The investigation was initiated after The Dispatch found in public records that at least eight Ohio State athletes and 11 athletes’ relatives bought used cars from Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct during the past five years. The investigation will involve outside experts and examine at least 50 sales, focusing on whether the athletes received improper benefits.
The common thread in those two dozen transactions was the salesman: Aaron Kniffin, who has worked at both dealerships.
“I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred,” he [Archie] said.
Kniffin told The Dispatch that he has sold cars to at least four dozen OSU athletes and their relatives, that the OSU compliance staff directed them to him, and that university officials reviewed all documents before sales were final.
Archie said that he has spoken to Kniffin only once, never reviews sales documents and has not directed players to any dealerships.
But on May 27, 2011, Matt Hayes of THE SPORTING NEWS reported:
“Doug Archie has called me well over 50 times,” Kniffin said. “This year alone, I’ve talked to him 25-30 times. You can print out your Verizon (phone) bills; his numbers are right there calling me.”
When asked why Archie, who did not immediately respond to voice mail messages, said he only spoke to Kniffin once and denied that the deals were approved by OSU compliance, Kniffin said, “That’s something you’ll have to ask him. I’ve got records of it.
Three days later, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported that apparently the NCAA wasn’t so sure about Archie’s repeated assurances that no NCAA violations had occurred during vehicle purchase and loan transactions involving Pryor:
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.
The Ohio State internal audit of the school’s NCAA rules compliance led by Archie also examined OSU’s practice of providing apparel, equipment and awards to student-athletes. From the report:
The Department of Athletics has purchased and implemented an inventory system to manage and monitor the issuance of equipment and apparel to student athletes. Although the use of this system has strengthened the Department of Athletics’ management of inventory and helps to reasonably assure compliance with NCAA regulations, we did identify the following opportunities to more effectively and consistently utilize the system and manage inventory:
Consistency – The process for managing inventory is not consistent among the different sports. Inventory management is left to the discretion of the individual sports managers.
- Documentation – Some sports do not document the use of all equipment and apparel.
- System Utilization – Some sports do not utilize all of the features of the inventory system.
- System Deletions – Individual sports managers have the ability to delete inventory items, for which they are responsible, from the inventory system without any form of independent review or mitigating control.
- Participation Awards – Participation awards (e.g., letter jackets, rings, etc.) are the responsibility of the Equipment Room but currently are not inventoried.
We recommend that the Department of Athletics strengthen inventory management procedures and controls to ensure consistency among all sports, accountability for all inventory items, and utilization of the inventory system to its fullest capability.
Thanks to these Ohio State internal audit documents, it has now been confirmed that OSU President Gee and Athletic Director Smith already knew of the failure by Ohio State compliance to inventory and track the aforementioned “participation awards” and “equipment and apparel” which likely contributed to Buckeye football players selling and trading those same items - along with football tickets - for cash, tattoos, cars and other extra benefits. (As documented in the DOJ letter to the school on December 7, 2010.) (Or as the NCAA likes to put it in its infraction reports to schools, “should have known.”)
The eventual discovery of those activities by Federal authorities in April, 2010, eventually led to five Ohio State football players, including Pryor, to be suspended for five games during the 2011 season and contributed the resignation of coach Jim Tressel.
Despite in recent months Ohio State twice reporting NCAA violations involving the school’s football program, and their prior knowledge of the lack of compliance by Ohio State student-athletes as detailed by their own internal audit, President Gee and Athletic Director Smith have continued to publicly laud the OSU compliance department.
On March 8, Gee said of the Ohio State NCAA rules compliance department:
“I want to thank our folks in athletics who have done a tremendous job in dealing with some serious issues and have done it precisely the way I would expect.
I want to confirm to each and every one of you that our university has followed every protocol in every way as expeditiously and forthrightly as we should and as I would expect .. ”
” .. I want to be very clear about that in no way does this university shed its responsibility in this effort and that it has followed its protocol.”
It was at the same press conference that, when asked if he was considering firing Jim Tressel, Gee uttered the now infamous words:
“No. Are you kidding? Let me just be very clear, I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
Two days later, on March 10, Gee backtracked from the latter gaffe but reiterated his support for Ohio State compliance to WBNS-TV in Columbus:
“We would not be so confident in what we’ve done (in NCAA rules compliance) if there was a smoking gun. If there was another shoe to drop, absolutely not. “
48 hours ago Ohio State President Gordon Gee said of the school’s compliance department:
“We legitimately have the best compliance system in the country.“
He also reiterated that Athletic Director Gene Smith’s employment status was not subject to change and that further resignations of OSU employees were not in the offing.
Gee’s most recent comments in full support of his athletic administration came three days after the resignation of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
A resignation that Gee has confirmed he supported.