Ohio St. Tattgate Scandal Played Out On Facebook

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.

Jermil Martin was contacted by Edward Rife on Facebook

(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 Rifebetween 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
8) 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? Read more…

Ex-Buckeye’s Confession Confirms OSU A.D. Lied

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:

They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody cause everybody was doing it.

“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.

From the NCAA Notice of Allegations to Ohio State regarding Tressel, April 21, 2011:

[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 18.4.2.1.1.4)

From the NCAA Public Infractions Report to Indiana regarding Sampson, November 25, 2008:

[NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(d) and 11.1.2.1]

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 (11.1.2.1) 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 11.1.2.1]

  • 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.

C. PENALTIES.

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 13.1.3.3.1 (official visit); 13.1.3.3.2 (National Letter of Intent); and 13.1.3.3.3 (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 19.5.2.2-(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.

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The Tressel Die Is Cast, But What O’ The Program?

With the NCAA’s now formal recognition of Jim Tressel’s unrepentant - as confirmed by Ohio State AD Gene Smith recently - commission of the governing body’s mortal sin, lying repeatedly to investigators after covering up NCAA violations, Ohio State Jim Tressel football coach has a choice going forward.


He can resign, retire or be fired.

From refracting the NCAA Notice of Allegations from every possible angle the past 24 hours, that fact is clear enough. What isn’t so straightforward though is what more the NCAA wants from Ohio State. That is, how far it is willing to go to make OSU an example for other programs in the strikingly non-compliant world of college football.

The NCAA may have left a clue though in its interesting decision to include the mystery “Player G” revelation in Friday’s NOA:

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).

A former player, Ohio State curiously did not mention “Player G.” in its original tattgate self-report in December, though the player was with the Buckeyes through the 2009 season and confirmed to have committed NCAA violations during his time as an Ohio State football player.

Who is he? While no one officially knows outside the NCAA and OSU, the attorney who allegedly first tipped off Tressel to the NCAA violations committed by DeVier Posey and Terrelle Pryor may have provided the answer.


In ESPN’s March 13, 2011, Outside The Lines report Columbus lawyer and former Ohio State football player Christopher Cicero told ESPN correspondent John Barr that memorabilia from two former Buckeyes, T.J. Downing and Ray Small, was also found in the possession of now-notorious Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife.

Per ESPN’s Barr, Cicero noted that fact to Tressel in at least one of the emails in question, though Downing and Small were redacted from the communique by Ohio State officials.

Downing left the Ohio State football program in 2006, but Small played through the 2009 season and currently has several items from his playing career available for purchase online. Some of those items correspond to the “Player G.” description.

Though Cicero identified Downing and Small, he did not expound on at least two other significant claims in his emails to Tressel that indicated there was more to the memorabilia-for-extra-benefits story than Ohio State has reported.

Actual Jim Tressel Email

In one of his emails to Tressel (excerpt above), Cicero described additional Ohio State player-only items Rife owned:

He told me he has about 15 pairs of cleats (with signatures), 4-5 jerseys - all signed by players … 

He told me he has about 9 rings Big 10 championship…

[Redacted] National Championship Ring (no surprise here either)

Now compare that to what the NCAA cited in its sanctions against five Ohio State players in December, 2010:

  • Mike Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring.
  • Daniel Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.
  • DeVier Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50,
  • Terrelle Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university.
  • Solomon Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.

So where are the “15 pairs of cleats“? The other 3-4 Ohio State jerseys? The other five Big 10 Championship rings? And the National Championship ring?

And …

Boom Herron Helmet For Sale: Wasn't Listed In NCAA report

Thaddeus Gibson: Players Knew The Rules

  • What about former Buckeye Antonio Pittman’s claim that football players selling Ohio State player-only swag for tattoos has been going on since 2001?

Antonio Pittman Tweet: Ohio State players getting tattoo hookups since 2001

  • What about this line in a Cicero email to Tressel:

Actual Jim Tressel Email

“I will try to get these items back that the government wants to keep for themselves.  Which is screwed up in an of itself. I know who specifically in the District Attorney’s office that is working on this matter and know both of them well so I will try if the opportunity presents itself.”

If the feds are indeed in possession of Buckeye player-only memorabilia that could further incriminate Ohio State with the NCAA, shouldn’t those items be promptly turned over to the NCAA?

Fine Link Ink Ohio State Players Facebook Friends

On the latter, the NCAA will require Ohio State to detail all relationships between Rife and Buckeye football players - past and present, per this passage from Friday’s NOA:

NCAA Notice of Allegations to Ohio State: Rife relationships with players

Though the NCAA has yet to charge Ohio State with the dreaded “failure of institutional control” or “failure to monitor” penalties, if the governing body wasn’t going to continue to plumb the depths of what might be additional, significant Ohio State impropriety, why did the NCAA cite the “Player G.” violations in the Notice of Allegations?

Jim Tressel contradicts earlier confidentiality claim at DSCC

With Tressel’s web of deception sufficiently confessed, it appears the future of the Ohio State football program as a near-term, viable enterprise is more tied to the NCAA’s discovery of a “Player H.” or a “Player I.” than its current coach’s assured demise.

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Video: Tressel Contradicts Confidentiality Claim?

Yesterday Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel addressed personal emails that showed he repeatedly ignored intimately-detailed warnings from a Columbus attorney that past and present Ohio State football players were giving their Buckeye football player gear and awards to an Ohio man in exchange for tattoo work.

Jim Tressel and Gene Smith: Ohio State Press Conference

(OSU AD Smith tried to stop Tressel’s response to Yahoo reporter’s question)

The emails also warned the current Ohio State football coach that the same man who two current Buckeye football players were associating with, Edward Rife, was under federal investigation for drug trafficking.

Despite the specific information from the Columbus attorney that Ohio State players were repeatedly breaking NCAA rules and possibly linked to a federal drug investigation, Tressel apparently did not report the troubling news to Ohio State officials or law enforcement.

Tressel withheld the information contained in the emails from NCAA officials throughout a December investigation resulting in multiple rules violations involving current Ohio State players and the same Edward Rife cited in attorney emails to the coach 10 months earlier.

At a press conference Tuesday, Tressel repeatedly said that he did not report the emails to anyone because the attorney who sent them requested confidentiality - and that the contents of the emails included claims of a federal investigation possibly involving current Ohio State football players.

Tressel said at the press conference Tuesday of that confidentiality:

“I needed to keep sight of the fact that confidentiality was requested by the attorney, so I followed that.”

The man who sent Tressel the emails was not involved in the federal investigation - which resulted in no charges being filed against Rife - nor did the emailer identify himself to Tressel as Rife’s attorney.

After his opening remarks to the media Tuesday, Tressel was asked by Yahoo Sports reporter Dan Wetzel: Read more…

2007-09 Buckeye Disputes ‘I Didn’t Know’ Defense

In its decision last Thursday to allow five Ohio State football players to play in the Sugar Bowl - despite suspending the same players for five games each for the 2011 season - the NCAA cited the fact that the players did not know they were breaking NCAA rules when they sold Ohio State player-only items to Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife.

Thaddeus Gibson: Players Knew The Rules

(Tattooed Gibson was teammates with the guilty players)

From the NCAA release:

The decision from the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff does not include a withholding condition for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The withholding condition was suspended and the student-athletes will be eligible to play in the bowl game Jan. 4 based on several factors.

These include the acknowledgment the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, Lennon said.

NCAA policy allows suspending withholding penalties for a championship or bowl game if it was reasonable at the time the student-athletes were not aware they were committing violations, along with considering the specific circumstances of each situation.

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith also made clear during a press conference to announce the NCAA penalties that his compliance staff had fell down on the job when it came to making it known to players that they couldn’t sell such items.

We were not explicit with these young men that you could not resell items that we give you. We began to be more explicit in November 2009.”

On the same day Ohio State and the NCAA claimed OSU player ignorance of the rules, the Buckeye football player with the most tattoos on the team between 2007-09, Thaddeus Gibson, said that Ohio State football players during the time in question were repeatedly (explicitly) informed of the NCAA rule in question. Read more…

Pics: Tattoo Guy Also Had 2009 OSU Player Items

On Wednesday afternoon, we broke the name of the Tattoo Parlor in Columbus, Fine Line Ink, where multiple Ohio State Buckeye football players were later confirmed by the NCAA to have sold Ohio State player-only merchandise and received extra benefits in the form of tattoos.

2009 Big 10 Championship Ring From Edward Rife Facebook

One day later, Ohio State officially announced that five Buckeye football players were suspended for five games due to NCAA violations involving Fine Line Ink.

Per the official NCAA release, the violations included the sale of the following items:

Mike Adams: Sale of 2008 Big Ten championship ring
DeVier Posey: Sale of 2008 Big Ten championship ring, 2008 Gold Pants
Terrelle Pryor: Sale of 2008 Big Ten championship ring, 2008 Gold Pants
Solomon Thomas: Sale of 2008 Big Ten championship ring, 2008 Gold Pants

Edward Rife is the man who owns Fine Line Ink and who bought those items from Ohio State players. On Rife’s current Facebook page, several Ohio State football players - past and present - are listed as “friends”:

Fine Link Ink Ohio State Players Facebook Friends

In addition, photos that could be seen on Rife’s Facebook page this week included:

A photo of Terrelle Pryor at Rife’s tattoo parlor showing off the tattoo he got at Fine Line Ink:

Terelle Pryor at Fine Line Ink

An image of DeVier Posey getting a tattoo at Rife’s Fine Line Ink establishment:

DeVier Posey Fine Line Tattoo Facebook Photo

Rife displaying a 2009 Ohio State gold pants charm. (Pryor, Posey and Thomas sold him their 2008 gold pants):

Ohio State gold pants Facebook

Rife displaying a 2009 Big 10 Championship ring:

2009 Big 10 Championship Ring From Edward Rife Facebook

An auction site that specializes in championship rings is currently offering a 2009 Big 10 Championship ring for sale at $3,295.00 with the description:

2009 Ohio State Football “OUTRIGHT BIG TEN-ROSE BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP” **Starting** Player’s Ring

A single pair of 2009 Ohio State gold pants are also available on the same auction site.

2009 Ohio State Gold Pants

Four Ohio State players were cited for selling their 2008 Big 10 Championship rings and three were noted for selling their 2008 OSU gold pants.

But none were cited for selling 2009 Big 10 Championship rings or 2009 OSU gold pants.

Thursday I noted that former Ohio State football player Antonio Pittman Tweeted that Buckeye football players had been getting tattoo “hookups” since 2001. Read more…