On the heels — certainly no pun intended there — of Jim Tressel’s resignation yesterday amid scandal, it is now being reported by The Columbus Dispatch that Tyrelle Pryor and others are being investigated by the NCAA to determine whether or not they received improper benefits from local car dealerships (link):
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.
One of the stark differences between this situation and the one with Cam Newton at Auburn is that there seems to be a paper trail of evidence, namely the multiple traffic violations Pryor received in various cars belonging to local dealerships. The traffic violations, much like, say, parking violations, are on record and make this investigation relevant to a similar review by the NCAA into another college football program:
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 NCAA is also investigating the relationship between Pryor and his hometown mentor, Ted Sarnkiak. Ohio State has released some emails between Sarniak and Jim Tressel, but refuses to release others due to FERPA:
State courts in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina each have ordered colleges in recent months to release documents that they had withheld after citing FERPA. In Arizona, a community college attempted to withhold emails among faculty members about a student.
“Court after court has said that not every cocktail napkin with a students’ name on it is an education record,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “An email between a coach and an outside third party doesn’t qualify under FERPA.”
It will be interesting to see how bad things end up in Columbus and how other programs currently under review react to this, and to what extent programs can hide behind FERPA and still appear to maintain institutional control.