Today Ohio State student newspaper THE LANTERN published on-the-record comments from former Buckeye football player Ray Small, an OSU wide receiver once voted captain of the squad during the 2009 season, in which Small detailed receiving extra benefits outside NCAA rules in exchange for his Ohio State football player-only memorabilia.
As part of his comments, Small said:
“Everywhere you go, while you’re in the process of playing at Ohio State. You’re going to get a deal every which way.”
While that news may have been a revelation to some, as I pointed out here last month, Small’s documented NCAA rule-breaking, which likely happened between November 2008 to May 2010, was first made known to the Ohio State athletic department and the NCAA six months ago - and over a year ago to Jim Tressel.
On April 26 I noted that OSU’s knowledge of Small’s activities outside NCAA rules was confirmed by this (video below) March 13, 2011, ESPN report:
The ESPN report noted that attorney Christopher Cicero reported to Jim Tressel in a 2010 email that Small’s memorabilia was found in the possession of Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife. Five Buckeyes, including stars Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey and Daniel Herron, were suspended for five games in the 2011 season by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith because of their association with Rife.
ESPN’s revelation came despite the fact that Small’s name had been redacted by Ohio State in its release of an initial, abridged set of emails between Cicero and Tressel. Also redacted from the email documents by Ohio State at that time was the name of former Ohio State player T.J. Downing, who left the program after the 2003 season.
Weeks later, after claiming it had “inadvertently omitted” some of the Cicero-Tressel emails in its initial media release, Ohio State forwarded the complete correspondence between the Columbus attorney and Ohio State coach to select Ohio media outlets, including the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. That second set of emails revealed Downing’s name, but Small’s name remained redacted.
Why was Downing’s name unredacted while Small’s remained hidden?
Any violations that Downing might’ve committed would’ve been considered outside the NCAA rule enforcement statute of limitations, while Small’s now-confirmed violations would still be considered applicable.
Ohio State continuing to redact Small’s name from the complete set of emails is all the more troubling considering the comments made by school Athletic Director Gene Smith in announcing penalties against the football program on Dec. 23, 2010, stemming from OSU player involvement with tattoo parlor owner Rife.
At that time, six Buckeyes were cited by Smith for taking extra benefits from Rife. But those players did not include Small, who had also committed Rife-related violations that the NCAA could consider actionable. Despite that fact, Smith said at the time:
“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.”
Smith knew of Small’s NCAA rules-violating activities involving Rife, which were inside the NCAA’s statute of limitations, when he made that statement.
If Smith believed that Small’s actions were not subject to NCAA penalties, why did Ohio State redact Small’s name from the later-released, complete Cicero-Tressel email correspondence while revealing former Buckeye T.J. Downing’s name?
Clearly Smith misrepresented the situation within the Ohio State program with his comments on Dec. 23, 2010, to the media - at the very least as it pertained to Small.
Put more bluntly, he lied.
More troubling for Ohio State is that the NCAA has also known of Small’s activities from the very beginning, as it, at least according to Smith, had access to the unredacted emails and unredacted Department of Justice letter which first prompted Ohio State to investigate Rife’s association with OSU football players. Small’s name also appeared in the DOJ letter as it pertained to selling OSU player-only memorabilia to Rife.
That’s also why it’s almost a certainly now that Small, despite playing down his relationship with Rife in his interview with The Lantern, is the anonymous “Player G” thusly described in the April 25 NCAA Notice of Allegations to Ohio State:
Player G: Sold Big Ten championship ring ($1,500), two “Gold Pants” awards ($250 each), helmet ($150) and pants ($30) from Michigan game and Rose Bowl watch ($250) for $2,430. Received $55 discount on two tattoos. Paid $100 to obtain team autographs on two helmets. Received $2,420 discount on purchase of used vehicle and $800 loan for vehicle repairs. (November 2008 to May 2010).
Again, Ohio State AD Smith did not cite any of the applicable violations committed by “Player G.” - later certified by the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations - in applying sanctions against his own football program.
That the NCAA knew of Small’s rule-breaking actions makes the governing body’s decision not to charge Ohio State with a ‘failure to monitor’ violation in the same Notice of Allegations letter to the school all the more puzzling.
In the case of Small, thanks to the Cicero-Tressel emails and DOJ letter, the NCAA knows that Tressel also knew about Small’s rules violations but did not report them - and later lied to OSU investigators about any knowledge of Small’s activity. (The fact that Small had left school was immaterial because his actions were still well within the NCAA’s statute of limitations as it pertained to rules violations.)
If the NCAA does eventually charge OSU and its current football coach with a ‘failure to monitor’ violation, which is well within the governing body’s rights, Tressel’s situation would be a virtual mirror image of the 2008 NCAA case involving former Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson.
Sampson, like Jim Tressel, was charged with the NCAA’s Cardinal Sin: violating NCAA Bylaw 10.1.
[NCAA Bylaw 10.1]
“It was reported that Jim Tressel, head football coach, failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics and violated ethical-conduct legislation as required by the NCAA legislation and violated ethical-conduct legislation when he failed to report information concerning violations of NCAA legislation and permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics competitions while ineligible.”
Tressel was also confirmed by Ohio State to have signed the NCAA’s annual Certificate of Compliance form on Sept. 15, 2010, despite knowledge of existing NCAA violations involving Small and numerous other Buckeye football players. (A violation of Bylaw 22.214.171.124.1.4)
[NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(d) and 126.96.36.199]
“From May 25, 2006, through May 24, 2007, the former head coach acted contrary to NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he (a) knowingly violated committee penalties set forth in the Oklahoma report (Findings B-1-b and B-1-c) and (b) failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standard of honesty normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics by providing false or misleading information to the institution and the enforcement staff. (c) Over the same period, the former head coach failed to monitor the men’s basketball program for rules compliance and to promote an atmosphere of compliance within it.”
Tressel has not yet been slapped with a failure to monitor charge (188.8.131.52) but with three months to go before Ohio State defends itself to the NCAA Committee on Infractions on August 12, that could change depending on the pending NCAA investigation and continued media scrutiny.
If that additional charge is levied against the OSU coach, Tressel will face the same stunning, penalty precedent set by the NCAA in its 2008 Infractions Report to Sampson and Indiana.
A precedent that was partially set by current Tressel attorney Gene Marsh, who was a member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions that placed the unprecedented, career-wrecking constraints on the ex-Hoosiers hoops coach. (See below.)
Indiana University, Bloomington
Public Infractions Report November 25, 2008
NCAA COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS
Eileen K. Jennings
Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.
Edward (Ted) Leland
Gene A. Marsh (Jim Tressel attorney)
Andrea (Andi) Myers
James Park, Jr.
Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto, chair
Dennis E. Thomas
UNETHICAL CONDUCT BY FORMER HEAD COACH; FAILURE TO MONITOR HIS PROGRAM AND TO PROMOTE AN ATMOSPHERE OF COMPLIANCE WITHIN IT. [NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(d) and 184.108.40.206]
- From May 25, 2006, through May 24, 2007, the former head coach acted contrary to NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he (a) knowingly violated committee penalties set forth in the Oklahoma report (Findings B-1-b and B-1-c) and (b) failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standard of honesty normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics by providing false or misleading information to the institution and the enforcement staff. (c) Over the same period, the former head coach failed to monitor the men’s basketball program for rules compliance and to promote an atmosphere of compliance within it.
a. From November 25, 2008, through November 24, 2011, the former head coach is prohibited from engaging in any on or off-campus recruiting activities or interactions with prospective student-athletes (or their parents or legal guardians) prior to their first full-time enrollment at any employing institution and whether or not they have signed a National Letter of Intent, accepted an offer of financial aid, or are recruited by the institution as these are or may be defined in NCAA Bylaws.
Prohibited activities include, but are not limited to, phone calls and phone conversations; contacts and evaluations as they are or may be defined in NCAA bylaws; electronic transmissions, general correspondence and other recruiting material as they are or may be defined in NCAA Bylaws; official and unofficial visit activities; and activities or interactions with prospective student-athletes that are prohibited to a representative of the employing institution’s athletics interests.
Further, the former head coach must provide contemporaneous and detailed records of any telephone call made to or received from a scholastic or non-scholastic organization in which prospective student-athletes participate or are members, including, but not limited to, coaches or staff members of high school, club, or nonscholastic basketball teams. These records must document the purpose of, and parties to, each telephone call and that its content neither involved discussion of prospective student-athletes nor was of a recruiting nature.
The former head coach is prohibited from using any phone to make such calls except his office phone and any additional phone assigned to him by his employing institution. He must submit his telephone logs for each of these phones to the compliance office on at least a monthly basis. The compliance office must institute strict monitoring of records.
This monitoring must include at least monthly reconciling of telephone logs with phone records and spot checking records to determine that they accurately reflect conduct. Further, at least twice annually the employing institution must review records of at least one month’s home phone calls and any personal cell phone calls of the former head coach to assure that no prohibited phone calls were made.
b. During the complete months of June, July and August, the former head coach is prohibited from any on- or off-campus recruiting activities or interactions with prospective student-athletes, or their parents or legal guardians, in the same way that he is prohibited under (a) above.
c. From November 25, 2011, to November 24, 2012, the former head coach is restricted to one-half the permissible recruiting contacts and evaluations that may be made with regard to any applicable daily, weekly, or monthly limits. (For example. Under current bylaws, a men’s basketball coach may visit a prospect’s high school once weekly during a contact period.
The former head coach is restricted to making visits once every other week.) During the same period, the former head coach is restricted to onehalf the maximum number of daily, weekly, or monthly permissible telephone calls that may be made to (i) prospective student-athletes (or their parents or legal guardians) on or after June 15 of their sophomore year in high school through July 31 of their junior year and to (ii) prospective student-athletes (or their parents or legal guardians) on or after August 1 of their junior year of high school. (For example. The current applicable weekly limit in the sport of men’s basketball is two phone calls weekly to a prospect in his senior year in high school.
The former head coach is restricted to making no more than one call weekly.) The only exceptions to these telephone penalties are those set forth in NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1 (official visit); 18.104.22.168.2 (National Letter of Intent); and 22.214.171.124.3 (telephone calls subsequent to National Letter of Intent signing or other written commitment). The former head coach is prohibited from using any phone in recruiting except his office phone and any additional phones assigned to him by the employing institution. He must submit his telephone logs for each of these phones to the compliance office on at least a monthly basis.
The compliance office must institute strict monitoring of records. This monitoring must include at least monthly reconciling of telephone logs with phone records and spot checking records to determine that they accurately reflect conduct. Further, at least twice annually the employing institution must review records of at least one month’s home phone calls and any personal cell phone calls of the former head coach to assure that no prohibited phone calls were made.
d. From November 25, 2012, to November 24, 2013, the former head coach must continue to comply with the telephone penalties and documentation set forth in (c) above and the compliance office must continue to reconcile telephone logs with records as set forth in (c) above.
e. If the former head coach is employed at a member institution at the times of the 2009 through 2013 NCAA Regional Rules seminars, then he must attend the seminar (five total possible regional seminars) and, within one month of each seminar, provide to the Director - Committees on Infractions a list of those sessions attended, together with his certification of attendance.
f. An institution that employs the former head coach during the time that any of the above-listed penalties are in effect shall submit a report to the Director - Committees on Infractions no later than 30 days after its first employment of the former head coach (or, if the former head coach is employed on November 25, 2008, then no later than December 23, 2008).
The report shall set forth the employing institution’s understanding of the above-listed penalties that are in effect at the time of initial employment and its responsibilities to monitor compliance. The report also shall set forth how the employing institution will monitor his conduct and that of the other coaches in the men’s basketball program to assure compliance with these penalties.
Thereafter every six months until November 24, 2013, an employing institution will submit a supplemental report that continues to document its monitoring of the former head coach and the other coaches in the men’s basketball program.
At the end of the showcause period imposed on the former head coach or upon termination of employment while the show-cause order is in effect, the president of the employing institution shall provide a letter to the committee affirming that the penalties were complied with during the time of employment at the employing institution. If the president is unable to so affirm, he shall so inform the committee.
g. The former head coach and any institution that employs him during the time that any of the above-listed penalties are in effect are admonished that these penalties shall be construed broadly and adhered to strictly and that the institution must institute safeguards against inadvertent violations or departures from these penalties. (For example, during the period in which the former head coach is prohibited from recruiting, prospects should not be provided his telephone number.)
Any violation or departure from these penalties, even if believed to be inadvertent and/or de minimus must be reported immediately to the Director - Committees on Infractions for review and possible action by the committee.
Should an inadvertent violation or departure from these penalties occur, the former head coach is admonished that he must immediately cease the conduct, document its occurrence, and report it to the compliance office at his employing institution for immediate submission to the Director - Committees on Infractions.
For example, if the former head coach answers the phone of an assistant coach and a prospect is on the line, the former head coach must immediately hang up. He may neither take a message nor list the name and phone number of the prospect. The only permissible conversation is for the former head coach to tell the prospect, “I must hang up as the NCAA has prohibited me from talking to prospects or taking a message. Please phone assistant coach [here insert name].”
The former head coach also must immediately document the circumstances of the telephone call and report it to the compliance office for transmission to the Director - Committees on Infractions.
Should an employing institution choose to challenge the imposition of the abovelisted penalties restricting the athletically related duties of the former head coach then, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199-(l), it must do so by scheduling an appearance before the Committee on Infractions to show cause why it should not be penalized for failure to comply with the penalties.
The above penalties do not include additional sanctions that were placed on the IU hoops program and assistant coaches.
Safe to assume OSU officials are well aware of this precedent - and know that if Tressel were to be dealt a fraction of the penalties suffered by Sampson, there’s no chance he could continue as Ohio State coach.
So if additional NCAA rules violations by the Ohio State football program continue to surface before the school’s August 12 appearance before the NCAA Committee on Infractions - thanks to revelations like the ones provided by Ray Small today - Tressel will have a lot more to worry about than a permanent stain on his Ohio State coaching record.