On Dec. 23, 2010, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith announced that multiple Buckeye football players, including Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas had been suspended for five games in 2011 for receiving extra benefits in the form of tattoos and cash from Columbus tattoo parlor owner and convicted drug dealer Edward Rife. A sixth player, Jordan Whiting, was suspended for one game for similar activity.
(Rife’s Facebook messages to tattgate Buckeye remain to this day)
During his remarks, Smith said of the situation:
“There are no other NCAA violations around this case. We’re very fortunate that we do not have a systemic problem in our program. This is isolated to these young men, and isolated to this particular instance.”
Thanks to the NCAA’s subsequent Notice of Allegations (NOA) sent to Smith and Ohio State on April 21, 2011, we now know that Smith’s “isolated” claim about the case was flatly untrue.
The NCAA reported in its April 21, 2011, NOA to Ohio State that an Ohio State football player, whose name was redacted by OSU officials despite his no longer being a student at the school, received the following extra benefits from Columbus tattoo parlor owner and convicted drug dealer Edward Rife “between November 2008 and May 2010“:
1) Received $1,500 from Rife for a 2008 Big Ten championship ring
2) Received $250 from Rife for a 2008 gold pants charm for a victory over Michigan
3) Received $250 from Rife for a 2009 gold pants charm for a victory over Michigan
4) Received $150 from Rife for a game helmet from the 2009 Michigan game
5) Received $30 from Rife for a pair of game pants from the 2009 Michigan game
6) Received $250 from Rife for 2010 Rose Bowl watch
7) Received a $55 discount from Rife on two Fine Line Ink Tattoo Parlor tattoos
Received $100 from Rife for obtaining current Buckeye player autographs on two collectible Ohio State football helmets
9) Received a $2,420 discount from Rife towards the purchase of a 2003 Chevy Tahoe
10) Received a $800 loan from Rife for vehicle repairs
NCAA-estimated cash value of benefits received from Rife: $5,805
The unknown player?
Former Ohio State running back Jermil Martin, who was with the team during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. (Ohio State was not punished for Martin’s NCAA rules-related offenses, which were by far the worst by a single Buckeye player noted in the NCAA Notice of Allegations.)
Martin’s current Facebook.com account indicates that one of the ways the former Ohio State player kept in contact with Rife was via the social networking site.
To this day Rife remains Facebook friends with Martin and messages from Rife to Martin can still be seen on the “wall” of Martin’s Facebook account.
On August 2, 2010, Rife wrote on Martin’s Facebook wall:
tell tp to call me its important (614) [phone number] asap
On September 25, 2010, Rife mentioned an Ohio State football memorabilia auction on Martin’s Facebook wall:
They auctioned off your old jerseys and paints today they went for $550 for both jerseys and both paints … I bid $500 dam it … Lol
And on September 7, 2010, Martin himself wrote of Rife on his Facebook account wall:
I wanna giv a shout out to the Biggest Buckeye Fan i know, Edward Rife If u think i 4got about u then u got da game twisted>
Rife responded to Martin’s Sept. 7 message with:
Your good bro just make sure you bust loose at so cal and show Ohio state why they should have kept you as a starter ….. I’m a Ohio state fan but im also a friend I’ll be rooting for you there just like I would have when you played for Ohio state …. And thanks
Exactly three months later, the U.S. Dept. of Justice delivered the letter to Ohio State that set off a chain of NCAA-related events forever changing the school’s football program.