Meyer Doing More Than NCAA Waiver Allows For?

On the same day it announced Urban Meyer as its next head football coach, November 29, Ohio State requested and was granted a NCAA waiver allowing the school to exceed the allowable number of football coaches on staff through the Buckeyes’ bowl game.

(Meyer not practicing what he preaches?)

Rusty Miller of the ASSOCIATED PRESS reported on December 9, 2011:

The existing staff, under Luke Fickell, will prepare the Buckeyes on the field in the days leading up to and including their Gator Bowl game against Florida on Jan. 2. Then there is incoming coach Urban Meyer, who will handle only recruiting while hiring his own assistants.

The waiver specifies that no more than 10 coaches - and no more than seven at any one time - may be involved in recruiting. Ohio State asked for the waiver because otherwise it would have exceeded the maximum number of allowed coaches under NCAA rules.

Such waivers have been granted in the past, but Ohio State’s situation is unique because Fickell plans to retain a prominent spot on Meyer’s staff as a lead recruiter and defensive play-caller.

Thursday Fickell was asked by Ohio State Football Radio Network broadcaster Jim Lachey - via WBNS-FM in Columbus - how Meyer was coping with not being part of Ohio State’s Gator Bowl preparations.

Lachey: “(Has it) been tough keeping him on the sidelines?”

Fickell: “He tried not to come around too much but when it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood.”

One presumes Lachey meant to say “off the sidelines.” Regardless, Fickell’s answer has already raised some eyebrows.

Earlier today GAINESVILLE (FL) SUN columnist Pat Dooley, who has covered Florida football for decades, Tweeted this response to Fickell’s contention that Meyer has “tried not to come around too much“:

Fickell on his coach’s show last night: “(Urban) tried not to come around too much but when coaching is in ur blood it’s in ur blood.” Hmm.

Because of Meyer’s intimate knowledge of the personnel of Ohio State’s Gator Bowl opponent, Florida, his possible involvement in Ohio State’s preparations for its game against the Gators would be of more impact than had the Buckeyes faced any other opponent in college football.

If Meyer was indeed involved in briefing the Ohio State coaching staff and/or players on Florida personnel or game preparations in any way, which would be against the terms of the NCAA waiver, it’d be another slap in the face to Gator fans at the hands of the former coach.

Fickell indicating that perhaps Meyer hasn’t limited his influence on the current OSU program to recruiting is also likely to concern University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, who complained about the Ohio State NCAA waiver when it was first announced. He then provided greater detail to his objections last week.

Brandon to the DETROIT NEWS on December 22, 2011:

Our (Michigan) coaches right now are sleep-deprived. They’ve got to plan to get 130 people to New Orleans (Michigan plays Virginia Tech in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl), practicing and preparing a game plan and doing all the things coaches do, and yet this is one of the busiest recruiting seasons of the year.

“Urban Meyer is able to spend 100 percent of his (December) time recruiting athletes, and no other coach in our conference has that flexibility.

“The NCAA preaches over and over about maintaining a level playing field and treating everybody the same. If that’s their guiding principle, someone at the NCAA needs to explain how this translates into a level playing field.”

On second thought, considering the significant positive impact Ohio State is likely to gain from Meyer’s salesmanship to prospective players, perhaps Brandon would prefer the new OSU head coach spend more time gameplanning for a meaningless Gator Bowl than matching wits with Michigan’s ’sleep-deprived’ assistants on the recruiting trail.

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Meyer Agrees To Coach Buckeyes, Building Staff

Multiple sources close to the Ohio State football program have confirmed that Urban Meyer is assembling a coaching staff after agreeing to become the next head football coach at Ohio State.

Urban Meyer and Gene Smith on Sept. 3, 2011 at Ohio State before OSU game against Akron

(9/3/2011: Meyer & Ohio St. Athletic Director Gene Smith at Ohio Stadium)

The deal between Meyer and Ohio State was consumated in principle earlier this week in Columbus but not signed. It includes a multi-year contract that will make Meyer once again one of college football’s highest paid coaches.

In additon to Meyer’s generous compensation package, sources said a major factor in the coach’s decision to agree to take the position was the school promising him the budget to assemble what is expected to become the highest-paid assistant coaching staff in college football history.

Of that staff, sources indicate Meyer’s intial plan is to retain current Ohio State head football coach Luke Fickell and current Buckeye wide receivers coach Stan Drayton.

Meyer also aims to add Chris Spielman, Kirk Herbstreit, current North Carolina State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta and current LSU offensive line coach Greg Studwara to his Ohio State staff.

Studwara was offensive line coach for Bowling Green when Meyer was the head coach of the Falcons in 2001 and 2002. One source indicated Studwara is being considered by Meyer as possible offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes.

Meyer was one of two candidates Ohio State contacted during its hiring process. Jon Gruden was also approached by the school, but declined interest.

Photo credit: The-Ozone.net.

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Blacklisted by OSU, Talbott Now Works MGOBLUE

UPDATE (Sept. 21, 2011, 12:36am PT): The ASSOCIATED PRESS corrects the record, noting that Dennis Talbott did not cite his affiliation with This Week In Football - or Icon SMI - when obtaining a sideline media credential under the name “Jay Talbott” for the Sept. 3 Michigan-Western Michigan game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Dennis Talbott Ohio Sports Weekly

(Website? Dormant. Talbott Facebook page? Awash in Michigan pics!) 

Instead, Talbott duped Michigan into gifting him a field pass by noting his affiliation with the website OhioSportsWeekly.com. What Talbott neglected to tell UM when he obtained his precious credential on August 31 was that he himself owned the OhioSportsWeekly.com domain - and had slapped up an empty storefront at the web address designed only to persuade media relations personnel into thinking Talbott was a member of the working media.

In the three weeks since Talbott shot the Michigan-Western Michigan game, he has added dozens of photos of the game - including one of himself shooting the action from the sideline - to his Facebook page. Yet the so-called media outlet Talbott claimed as his sole reason for being at the Big House, OhioSportsWeekly.com, not only hasn’t been updated since the UM-WMU game, the site has remained virtually unchanged since Feb. 1, 2011.

UPDATE (Sept. 20, 2011, 1:05pm ET): Michael Rothstein of ESPN reports that after learning from the SbB report below that Ohio State-blacklisted photog Dennis Talbott had gained sideline media access for the Sept. 3 Michigan-Western Michigan football game at Michigan Stadium, the school announced today that Talbott “has been banned by the Michigan athletic department.

Dennis Talbott: Banned by Michigan after SbB report

(Talbott fallback? Shooting rogue OSU booster’s favorite high school coach)

Rothstein reported that Talbott used an “unfamiliar” name while claiming affiliation with the very same publication that scored him sidelines at Ohio State beginning in 2009 - and access to the high school coach who has sent the most players to Ohio State the past decade, Cleveland-Glenville head coach Ted Ginn, Sr.

- - -

Three months ago an anonymous source alleged to ESPN that Dennis Talbott, a Central Ohio-based businessman with a sudden, new-found love for photography, “made at least 35 payments to [Terrelle] Pryor in 2009 and 2010 for signing memorabilia, for a total payout of between $20,000 and $40,000.

Dennis Talbott shooting Michigan game on Sept. 3, 2011

(Banned By Ohio State, Talbott Now Employing Northern Exposure)

Following the ESPN report, SbB revealed details of those transactions and an eBay account and now-defunct company from which Talbott sold dozens of collectibles featuring the signatures and likenesses of then-current Buckeye football players.

So how did Talbott acquire the access needed to enable such a “business“?

One way was to affiliate himself with a small Ohio-based online publication called This Week In Football. Talbott struck up that relationship in large part to (somehow) obtain photographer media credentials from Ohio State - despite having never shot as a professional photographer until 2009. Talbott actually stumbled upon the idea of posing as a pro photog after snapping some pics from the sidelines of 2008 Fiesta Bowl.

Jim Tressel signing memorabilia for Dennis Talbott

Starting with the 2009 Ohio State football season, armed with sideline access provided by Ohio State, Talbott accumulated his own product - which he reproduced for signings  and sales - while also gaining the acccess needed to develop personal relationships with players like Pryor, DeVier Posey, Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibson.

It wasn’t long before Ohio State-licensed memorabilia dealers caught on to Talbott’s “photography” con thanks to his prior reputation as an unafraid purveyor of the sale of unlicensed OSU product - along with his alleged penchant for forging the signature of a head coach known for his flagpin affinity.

It was that steady stream of beefs from upstanding memorabilia dealers, not anyone at Ohio State compliance or within the athletic department, that caused Talbott to eventually be stripped of his prized, Ohio State sideline pass. Between that loss, his eBay account being outed and the 2011 ESPN reports, Talbott’s trafficking of Ohio State current player memorabilia, save a stealth eBay account or three, seems to have ground to a halt.

Sufficiently shunned at the ‘Shoe, there was only one thing left for a hopeless black-marketer like Talbott to do.

Work MGOBLUE.

Dennis Talbott Facebook Photo Gallery

(All of Talbott’s shots from the Michigan-W. Michigan game on Sept. 3)

Thanks to his previous association with a small sports photo distribution company called Icon SMI - derived only from the legitimacy provided by OSU sideline access - Talbott was given sideline photographer media credentials by Michigan for its opening game of the season against Western Michigan. A staggering fact of which, if Talbott’s profile photo on his personal Facebook account is any indication, he’s quite proud.

As he’s paid by Icon SMI only for individual shots bought by media outlets, Talbott’s relationship with company has always been more about accesss to players than actual compensation. So it was gravy for him to be paid - albeit a modest sum - by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for this shot of Denard Robinson from the Sept. 3 game:

Dennis Talbott shot of Denard Robinson

(Okay I added the inset)

Probably not a coincidence that Talbott’s prize-winning shot was of Denard Robinson, considering the seeming vast demand (and supply) of Denard Robinson-signed” items for sale online. (Here’s another sweet 16 shot from the artist formerly know as “D. Jay Talbott” - coming to an eBay auction near you!)

So far there’s no obvious indication that Talbot transacted monetary gain from UM media access like he did Ohio State, but remember, our favorite fake photog isn’t a trader - he’s an investor!

Don’t believe me? Ask Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington.

While still current Ohio State players, Gibson and Worthington were receiving a wide variety of NCAA-rule-violating benefits from Columbus-based NFL agent Brad Cicala as Talbott was employing his photography-fueled grift. So if Talbott wanted a Pryor-like arrangement with Gibson and Worthington, he’d have to go through an NFL agent.

Below is a shot from an ESPN’s Outside The Lines investigative piece in which Talbott was seen - coincidentally or not - outside the office complex where Cicala’s Columbus agency was located.

Dennis Talbott outside Brad Cicala's office on ESPN's Outside The Lines

(More from ESPN’s exhaustive reporting on Talbott)

Cicala also currently reps journeyman NFL player and former Buckeye Roy Hall. It was Hall who helped Cicala connect the NFL agent with then-current Buckeye Worthington - who helped Cicala get in with Gibson, a former Cleveland-area high school star. Cicala later signed Gibson as an NFL client, a coup considering Gibson’s Ohio State position coach at the time was Luke Fickell - who has long been known for his close relationship with Cleveland-area NFL agent Neil Cornrich.

Helping Cicala land Worthington and Gibson was benefits like sweet seats to the Oct. 28, 2009, Jay-Z concert in Columbus, an actual recording studio in Gibson’s Columbus apartment and, of course, Cicala’s arrangement with Talbott.

But then again, who’s to say Worthington and Gibson wouldn’t have signed with Cicala anyway!

Just look at OSU booster Bobby DiGeronimo, who enjoyed the company of dozens of Buckeyes over the years at his annual charity event in Cleveland despite providing them no benefits of any kind.

Why, I still can’t believe Bobby D. threw away his 30-year relationship with Ohio State because, in a completely isolated case, he felt like paying three Ohio State football players $200 each at his 2011 charity event.

Three players who’d never started a game.

With envelopes.

Did I mention it was a one-time deal?

Brooks can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and directly at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com

NCAA Report: Prized Ohio St. QB At Charity Event

EXCLUSIVE: In his Ohio State debut against Akron two weeks ago, freshman Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller passed for 132 yards and a touchdown in OSU’s 42-0 shutout of the Zips.

OSU NCAA Report included Braxton Miller and Nathan Williams at charity event where 3 Buckeyes took cash

After the game, Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell was asked if he planned to continue both playing Miller and fellow quarterback Joe Bauserman, who started against the Zips.

We know we need them both, and I think that’s the most important thing. Those guys work great together. They’re not going to be distracted by the things that are outside and all the outside influences. We know we’re going to need them both. We’re just going to give them all the ability to put them in situations and see how they handle it, and still continue to let them compete. They know we have confidence in them, but they’re willing to work together and we’ll see how it grows.

Seven days later against Toledo at Ohio Stadium, Miller failed to play a down. After the game, Fickell was asked why the highly-touted quarterback remained on the sideline - and if an injury was the reason:

We don’t have any regrets. I don’t think we are going to look back and regret it. Obviously you look back every week, and try to find ways that you can get better, but Braxton was dinged up a little bit, practiced more so on Thursday and a little bit on Wednesday, but you know, we had a plan going in that maybe it didn’t quite happen exactly how you do.

You’ve kind of got to adjust on the run. And you know, we are not going to look back on it. We know that most importantly, we’ll make sure that those guys mind are right and they understand the situation we are in. We communicated with them so that there’s no guesswork involved and to me the most important thing is that they can stay focused and move forward and not dwell upon the past.

Moments later at the presser, Fickell was asked, “Just to clarify on Braxton, his health did play a role in the decision on Saturday?

Fickell:

I didn’t say that. I said that he was dinged up a little bit early in the week and we had a plan going in, maybe we adjusted the plan a little bit, but most important thing is that, hey, we’re all moving forward with it. We understand it, those guys understand it. You have a plan going into the game and as long as you communicate with them, we’ll make sure we all handle things the right way and most importantly we have to do what’s best for the team.

Benching Miller wasn’t the only adjustment Fickell made when it came to playing time before the game in question.

Tuesday before the Toledo game, Fickell indicated Ohio State players Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown would likely be available to play after serving a one game suspension for taking envelopes containing cash at a Cleveland charity event last February. But the Friday before the game at Ohio Stadium against the Rockets, the NCAA released a statement blocking the reinstatement of the trio.

A day later - to the surprise  of many - Miller took the same number of snaps against game as Hall, Howard and Brown did: zero.

In its original report to the NCAA detailing the violations committed by the aforementioned trio, the NCAA noted that two additional “current student-athletes” attended the same charity event where Hall, Brown and Howard received $200 each in envelopes utltimately provided by longtime Ohio State booster Bobby DiGeromino.

On [redacted], 2011, five current football student-athletes and two former student-athletes attended a charitable event in Cleveland. Three of the current student-athletes received impermissible monies at the charitable event - a violation of NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2.1.6. Further, a violation of NCAA Bylaw 12.5.1.1.(a) occured since the student-athletes did not receive prior written approval for attending the event this year.

Ohio State also noted in its original, Sept. 1, 2011, report to the NCAA of the two “current student-athletes”:

.. they did observe [redacted] carrying several envelopes during the event.

The two “current student-athletes” referred to by Ohio State in its report to the NCAA - with the names redacted by the the school in its release of the report to the media - are Braxton Miller and current Buckeye football player Nathan Williams.

Williams also sat out of the Toledo game and will miss the Miami game due to a knee injury.

Though I cannot confirm Fickell didn’t play Miller against Toledo because the QB was named in the NCAA report - particularly after the NCAA’s last-second Toledo game blockade of Hall, Howard and Brown - you can’t help but wonder if it was a contributing factor.

Brooks can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and directly at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com

Ohio St. Ignores Last Asset Left In Recruiting War

May 31, 2011, the day after Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State head football coach, the top recruit in the ever-fluid 2012 Ohio State recruiting class, Ohio high school offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, called interim coach Luke Fickell to withdraw his verbal commit to the school’s football program.


From the COLUMBUS DISPATCH on June 1:

“I already knew what I was going to say, that my family and I had reevaluated things and I was going to de-commit,” Kalis said.

Then a funny thing happened. He and Fickell talked for 56 minutes, and the word de-commit didn’t come up until the end.

“I told him, ‘Coach Fickell, the meaning of my call was to de-commit, but you talked me out of it,’” Kalis said.

Two weeks later, on June 15, Kalis told Bill Greene of Scout.com:

“I am all-in for Coach Fickell from this point forward. As long as Luke Fickell is the head coach at Ohio State I will remain committed to the program. Losing Coach Tressel was hard and I don’t want to go through this again with a third head coach.

“I still talk to other coaches out of respect, but I tell them all I am 100% committed to Ohio State and I won’t be visiting their schools. As long as Luke Fickell is the head coach there’s no chance I would look at any other school.”

Six days later, Green reported:

A talk with interim head coach Luke Fickell convinced Kalis to stick with the Buckeyes, but now comes word of him cancelling a planned visit to Ohio State this weekend. Instead, Kalis will now visit Ohio State’s biggest rival, Michigan.

“My original plan was to go to Ohio State this weekend, but that has changed,” Kalis stated. “After talking to my dad, we’ve decided to visit Michigan instead. It’s my weekend with him and he wants me to get up there and see the program, so that’s where I’m going.”

Last night, Green reported:

Five-star offensive tackle Kyle Kalis has officially de-committed from Ohio State, the Lakewood St. Edward star announced Tuesday evening.

“I did speak to Luke Fickell minutes ago, and I told him I was de-committing from Ohio State,” Kalis announced. “I want to keep all my options open, and will consider several programs going forward, including Ohio State. That’s really all I want to say about my recruitment at this time.”

The sudden reversal by the five-star, in-state offensive line prospect followed a permanent de-commit by incoming 2011 OSU signee Ejuan Price, who has since enrolled at Pitt.

Though Price wavered throughout the recruiting process right up until signing day, Fickell personally closed the Pennsylvania linebacker in early February. But despite Price signing on the dotted line to play for the Buckeyes, the linebacker changed his mind last week and was subsequently granted his release by Ohio State.

The day Tressel resigned the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW had this on Price:

Price, who also was recruited to Ohio State by Fickell, wasn’t surprised by Tressel’s resignation.

“It was just a matter of time,” he [Price] said. “I thought he’d do it during the middle of the summer, though, when all the recruits had already come in (to campus).”

In confirming to Jeff Svoboda of BuckeyeSports.com on June 18 that he was seeking his release from Ohio State, Price indicated that Fickell wasn’t keen on responding immediately - for a very specific reason:

Ohio State’s class of 2011 football recruits are set to report to Columbus on Sunday, but it’s safe to say Ejuan Price will not be with the rest of the group.

The linebacker from Pittsburgh Woodland Hills said after the Big 33 Classic on Saturday night in Hershey, Pa., that he has been released from his scholarship by Ohio State.

“Yes, sir,” he said when asked if the release had been granted. “They were waiting for Friday so it wouldn’t cause a tumble effect or whatever. That came and went. All I need are the papers now and I’ll be good to go.”

When asked Saturday night, an Ohio State spokesman could confirm only that Price had asked for his release, not that it had been granted.

Particularly striking in those recent OSU de-commits is Fickell’s personal involvement with each recruit.

Price was recruited by Fickell while Kalis specifically cited the interim coach in re-affirming his ultimately temporary verbal commit to the Buckeyes after Tressel resigned.

While no one begrudges Fickell the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s hard to imagine why Ohio State didn’t install a higher profile interim coach as it awaits an infractions verdict from the NCAA.

With all the high profile former Buckeyes floating around, including several in Columbus, what did OSU have to lose in recruiting someone like Chris Spielman to step in for the moment? And if Spielman wasn’t interested, what of former Ohio State and NFL offensive lineman Jim Lachey? Might Kalis have elected to stay had someone like Lachey come calling - even as a temporary assistant coach?

Spielman and Lachey are just two of dozens of former Buckeyes who might or might not be interested in giving back to their school in its current, extraordinary time of need. And knowing the character of former OSU players like Spielman and Lachey, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t - at the very least - agree to help Athletic Director Gene Smith find a high profile coach willing to serve in an interim albeit temporary capacity.

These days, virtually every recruit who signs with a program like Ohio State does so with a possible NFL career in mind.  Smith installing a coach with no college head coaching experience, no NFL coaching experience and zero national profile can’t be looked at as any other than a disservice to the Buckeye football program and its fans.

Then combine the unknown extent of Ohio State’s impending NCAA penalties with Ohioans at the helm of the football programs at Michigan (Brady Hoke - Dayton) and Michigan State (Mark Dantonio - Zanesville) and the Ohio State athletic administration abandoning its last, best asset in stemming the long-term damage to its football program approaches the same, shameful negligence it has already perpetrated on the school.

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Pryor Offenses: QB Loses Coach, Keeps Dealer?

In the aftermatch of Jim Tressel’s forced resignation today, Tressel’s replacement for the 2011 season, Luke Fickell, called a team meeting on Monday evening in Columbus.

(Monday night: NCAA-targeted Pryor in late model car with temporary tags)

During WBNS-TV reporter Dan Fronczak’s live standup outside the site of the meeting, the Columbus television station aired video of Terrelle Pryor arriving at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the all-hands gathering of Buckeye football players.

Part of that footage showed Pryor driving a late model vehicle outfitted with a temporary tag dated May 24. Here is a photo of the car, which is a 2007 Nissan 350Z:

Terrelle Pryor 2007 350Z

Four hours earlier, the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported that the NCAA was currently investigating Pryor’s use of vehicles while enrolled as a football player at Ohio State - and before he signed with the school in 2008.

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.

OSU officials previously said that even before Pryor arrived on campus in 2008, the NCAA examined the ownership of his vehicle and how it was paid for.

In January, The Dispatch reported that three times in the past three years, Pryor was stopped for traffic violations while driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car dealer for whom the salesman worked.

The salesman, Aaron Kniffin, told The Dispatch that while working at Jack Maxton Chevrolet in 2008, he allowed Pryor to drive his SUV to his hometown in Pennsylvania so that his mother could check it out. Pryor did not buy the vehicle.

Kniffin also said he arranged for Pryor to use a 2009 Dodge while Pryor’s car was being repaired at Auto Direct, a Columbus car dealership where Kniffin worked last fall.

About two dozen autographed jerseys hang inside Auto Direct’s office, including Pryor’s.

Kniffin also sold cars to Pryor’s mother and brother as well as dozens of other Buckeye athletes or their family members.

The temporary license tag on the late model vehicle Pryor was driving Monday evening on the Ohio State campus did not match the license plate cited in court records for Pryor’s most recent, documented traffic stops on April 4, 2010, and Feb. 17, 2011.

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