Terrelle Pryor’s Cars: Same As Clarett ‘04 Claim?

Jill Riepenhoff of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH reported Sunday, “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.

Terrelle Pryor: Athlete-Student

More from Riepenhoff:

Pryor told The Dispatch last night that he borrowed cars from the dealership only when his own was in for repairs. As for the SUV he borrowed in 2008, Pryor said, “I wanted advice from some of my family and friends I trusted to see if it would be a good vehicle for me to maybe buy.”

Pryor’s situation is remarkably similar to a 2004 ESPN The Magazine story in which Maurice Clarett claimed he was facilitated “loaner” vehicles by a local Columbus car dealership thanks to his status as a star Buckeye football player - with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel himself overseeing the transactions.

Maurice Clarett

(Guess who else beat Michigan, Terrelle?)

On Nov. 10, 2004, Tom Friend wrote in the ESPN publication:

Clarett lived 15 minutes from campus, so he also needed a car. He says he took that request right to the head coach. “My transmission blew in my car, a Cadillac. So I’m like, ‘Coach Tressel, I can’t get back and forth to campus.’ This is probably after practice, 6 o’clock, 5 o’clock one night. He gets on the phone and says, this is where I get my car from. He called the man from McDaniel Automotive. He’s like, ‘I got a player here, Maurice Clarett. He needs a car. Do you have a car out there he can use?’

“So the man gets on the phone with me and says, ‘What kind of cars do you like?’ I say, ‘Got any trucks?’ He says, ‘Yeah, I got two trucks. I got an Expedition and I got a Tahoe here right now.’ He’s like, ‘I’ll be there tomorrow morning.’ They drove down to give me the car.”

Clarett says he kept the Tahoe for 11 days, then switched to the Expedition. NCAA Rule 16.12.2.3 states that an institutional employee or representative of the institution’s athletic interests is not allowed to provide a student athlete with the use of an automobile. According to Clarett, that is exactly what his head coach did. “This is what Jim Tressel arranged,” Clarett says.

He says as long as he was running the football well, Tressel was attentive, asking, “You cool? How’s your living situation?” He says they talked three or four times a week, always behind closed doors. “We never talked in front of anybody else,” Clarett says. “It was always, ‘Come to my office.’”

As the season wore on, he says the car swapping escalated, and the dealerships had no qualms about accommodating him. “When you’re hot in Columbus, you just go,” Clarett says. “Somebody’s going to recognize your face. You say, ‘I need to use a car.’ ‘Okay, here you go.’”

He says he’d keep the cars “for weeks, until I got tired of ‘em.” His favorite was the Lexus SC 430 sports car, but he tried to borrow anything that was new at the time. “Put it like this,” he says. “There’s a dealership on Morse Road, The Car Store. They’ve got a used car lot. You just go to the dealership, and go and go and keep on going. That’s the car dealership Coach Tressel introduced me to, that and McDaniel Automotive. Both places set me up. I wouldn’t have known these places if it wasn’t for Ohio State.”

Of the Pryor situation, the Dispatch reported Sunday:

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.

This news follows up Pryor’s defiant comments to the press late last week about his five-game suspension for selling Ohio State memorabilia and his so-called “pledge” to return to the school for his senior year.

Pryor indicated in his press conference that he knew the NCAA rules that he was breaking.

“I always thought, it was two years ago, you know. So I already knew what I shouldn’t have done back two years ago that I know now. To tell you the truth, I really haven’t learned much because I already knew what I shouldn’t have did about two years ago. I wouldn’t make the same decision. So I can’t tell you that I learned something because I already knew what I did wrong.

“I guess every time we had them little meetings, compliance, every time they would say something you’re like, ‘Man, I did it. I did that. So, I mean, it’s over with man. We’re not really stressing about it anymore.’”

Former Pryor Ohio State teammate Thaddeus Gibson echoed Pryor’s remarks about Buckeye players knowing the rules after the NCAA announced its recent sanctions against six Ohio State players - including Pryor:

Thaddeus Gibson: Players Knew The Rules

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith claimed in remarks to the media following the announcement of the OSU player suspensions that one of the reasons the players were being allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl was that they were unaware of the NCAA violations that they’d committed. The NCAA also stated as much in its official ruling:

  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.

As for Ohio State Jim Tressel’s claim that Pryor was only being allowed by the coach to play in the Sugar Bowl because the quarterback had “pledged” to return to Ohio State for his senior year, Pryor said he made no such promise:

“Not just from my standpoint, I think it’s important to keep your word, but at the same time, some guys have different situations, you know? I think some guys pledged — we were basically saying, ‘Sorry.’ I know other guys are in different situations. I can’t really speak if they would choose to leave or anything like that, that they are breaking a pledge. I wouldn’t say that we, automatic, I think some guys have different situations. Speaking for them, you can’t go off like that.”

Keep in mind that Ohio State has the largest compliance staff among all NCAA schools yet from 2000-09 the governing body reported that OSU had committed 375 NCAA violations not detailed in the most recent NCAA ruling suspending Ohio State football players.

If that isn’t an indication that the entire premise of the NCAA’s enforcement model is broken, what is?