Well, here we go again.
Even as The Ohio State University is in the midst of a major quagmire created by the lies and cover-up of its head coach, now they may have yet another issue to deal with. And one that the NCAA may very well have a significant interest in.
Prompted by a Columbus Dispatch investigation that began in 2007, the OSU’s associate athletic director and head of compliance told the paper that the school will take a look into the sale of at least 50 used vehicles to student-athletes — mainly football players — and their relatives. According to the Dispatch‘s report, the probe will center on two Columbus dealerships — Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct — and whether or not the players and/or their relatives were given deals not offered to the general public. While the two dealerships are not connected and have different owners, Aaron Kniffin was a salesman at both businesses; the Dispatch describes Kniffin as the common thread in two dozen transactions.
Kniffin, if you recall, was the salesman whose name was connected to a previous investigation of vehicles being driven by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. OSU cleared Pryor of any wrongdoing in that case.
And, at least for now, the OSU compliance official sees the same ending in this latest case.
“We’ll take a step back, we’ll take a look at the transactions and the values, and we’ll make some determinations in consultation with the (Big Ten) conference office and go from there,” Doug Archie told the paper.
“I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred.”
The report, which again can be viewed by clicking HERE, is very detailed and extensive but well worth the time it takes to pour over, but here are a few of the highlights — or lowlights, depending on the amount of scarlet & gray clothing littering your closet.
— Jack Maxton owner Jeff Mauk and Auto Direct owner Jason Goss were interviewed by Archie Friday and both individuals denied giving special treatment to players or their relatives. The Dispatch reports that Goss and Kniffin attended seven football games — including the 2007 national championship and 2009 Fiesta Bowl — as guests of players who were members of the football team at the time. Goss denied that he was a guest of any player to whom he sold a vehicle.
— For the biggest red flag from the entire potential situation unearthed by the Dispatch, we’ll allow the paper to spell it out here:
Public records show that in 2009, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles was titled to then-sophomore linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. Documents show the purchase price as $0.
Mauk could not explain it. “I don’t give cars for free,” he said. Gibson said he was unaware the title on his car showed zero as the sales price. “I paid for the car, and I’m still paying for it,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
— Former running back Maurice Wells‘ mother, who lived in Maryland at the time, bought a vehicle from Kniffin while he was an employee of the Chevrolet dealership. That transaction is one of the four dozen or so under investigation.
— The mother and brother of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving impermissible benefits in an unrelated case, also purchased vehicles from Kniffin. The transactions involving the relatives of Pryor and Wells are three of the eight involving individuals related to current or former Buckeyes student-athletes. Archie told the paper he was aware of all the transactions involving players being looked into by the Dispatch — the owners of the dealerships stated they routinely call Archie whenever an OSU athlete is going to purchase a vehicle from them — but he was not aware of the purchases made by the relatives of players.
— On so many players buying vehicles from one or two dealerships, Archie told the Dispatch that “[i]t’s something from a compliance perspective that I would rather not have.” Two former NCAA investigators who requested anonymity told the paper that there’s cause for concern as they’ve never heard of so many athletes buying cars from the same salesman.
— Speaking of said salesman, Kniffin, who currently sells vehicles in another state, owes more than $130,000 to the IRS and his $570,000 Delaware County (Oh.) home is in foreclosure.
— If you take the the first “n” out of Kniffin, what are you left with?*
In and of itself, this latest situation casts Ohio State in a very negative light, at least in the short-term and until it’s proven one way or the other. Add it on to the previous issues, however, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the current state of the flagship football program of the state of Ohio.
At some point, the university is going to be forced to take a step back and take a hard look at not only head coach Jim Tressel, but Tressel’s boss, athletic director Gene Smith, as well. Then again, if some of them did that, they’d have to worry about the coach dismissing them. Right, Mr. Gee?
(*that was my point, not the Dispatch’s. And it was a joke. Lighten up people.)