OSU LB’s dad threatens legal action as SI expose’ comes under fire

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A Sports Illustrated expose’ expected to further reveal the seamy underbelly of the Ohio State football program under Jim Tressel did just that, but has also had the unintended consequence of bringing significant heat to the publication on several different fronts.

Speaking to both the Newark Advocate and ESPN.com, the father of linebacker Storm Klein threatened legal action against SI over his son being named in the George Dohrmann (with David Epstein) piece.  In the article, Klein was one of nine current Buckeyes a former employee of a Columbus-area tattoo parlor — who was only willing to speak under the pseudonym “Ellis” — named as having “swap[ped] memorabilia or give[n] autographs for tattoos or money.”

Jason Klein, the LB’s father, vehemently denied his son was involved in any of the activity described, and also some that wasn’t even mentioned by Dohrmann.

“I’ve raised my son right,” the father told the Advocate late Thursday. “My son has no tattoos. He does not have any drug problems. I have every bit of his memorabilia that he’s ever got from Ohio State.”

“My son has no tattoos on his body,” the elder Klein told ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad. “I have all of his memorabilia. What has been written is preposterous. My son has been routinely tested for drugs and has never had a positive test.”

Storm Klein was mentioned in one paragraph in Dohrmann’s article.  Here’s the relevant passage:

Ohio State has conceded that six current players committed an NCAA violation by trading memorabilia for tattoos or cash at Fine Line Ink: Pryor, tackle Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Jordan Whiting. Ellis, who spent time in and around the tattoo parlor for nearly 20 months, says that in addition to those six, he witnessed nine other active players swap memorabilia or give autographs for tattoos or money. Those players were defensive back C.J. Barnett, linebacker Dorian Bell, running back Jaamal Berry, running back Bo DeLande, defensive back Zach Domicone, linebacker Storm Klein, linebacker Etienne Sabino, defensive tackle John Simon and defensive end Nathan Williams. Ohio State declined to make any of its current players available to respond to SI.

As far as I can tell, and I’ve read the piece on at least seven different occasions, there is not a single instance of Dohrmann connecting Klein to drugs, so for the father to offer that “my son has been routinely tested for drugs and has never had a positive test” is mystifying to say the least.  Be that as it may, and if Klein’s father’s claims that all of his son’s memorabilia are in his possession and he isn’t inked are indeed correct — we think the latter might be an easy one to prove/disprove — it would cast serious doubt on the veracity of “Ellis”, which in turn would call into question at least some of the more damaging claims made in the piece.

Klein’s father is not the only parent with a public beef with the piece, however.  The dad of defensive tackle John Simon, mentioned in the same paragraph as Klein, lashed out to the Columbus Dispatch over his son’s inclusion in the article.  While Jason Klein could not say with any degree of certainty that his son had ever been in the tattoo parlor in question, the elder Simon, also named John, stated unequivocally that his defensive lineman son has never been in the joint.

“It’s just more or less disbelief on how something like that can come out, how a reputable publication can write something like that without any proof at all,” the elder Simon said. “He was never there, never even close to the place. He didn’t get his tattoos from there; he got them from a place here in his hometown (Youngstown).”

Unlike the Klein clan, it doesn’t appear any legal avenues will be pursued by members of the Simon family.

In addition to damning accusations made about the OSU football program under Tressel, The Vest’s program at Youngstown State in the nineties was also placed under a great deal of scrutiny by the magazine.  Specifically, star Penguins quarterback Ray Isaac, who was ultimately found to have received cash, a car and a all-pay-no-work job from a YSU trustee on Tressel’s watch.

Dohrmann also explores Tressel’s management between then-quarterback Ray Issac and Mickey Monus, a wealthy school trustee and the founder of the Phar-Mor chain of drug stores, while Tressel was with Youngstown State. According to the report, upward of 13 players were illegally holding jobs at Phar-Mor and Issac, in addition to collecting roughly $10,000 in cash from Monus, was also driving a car provided by Phar-Mor.

“Tressel was aware of the car. At times, Isaac told SI, he asked the coach for help in getting out of traffic tickets. “He’d slot out two hours to meet and say, ‘Ray, I need you to read this book and give me 500 words on why it’s important to be a good student-athlete,’” Isaac says. Afterward the ticket would sometimes disappear, which, if Tressel intervened, would be an NCAA infraction.”

In an interview with 790 The Zone in Atlanta, Isaac was very vehement in stating that Tressel was unaware of what was going on until Monus was indicted on federal charges, with the issues involving Isaac and other YSU players only seeing the light of day when they came out during the trial.

The article is a big lie… I’m very displeased with the article,” Isaac told the radio station.

“Jim Tressel never ever knew anything about our dealings. I kept it secret. To say Coach Tressel knew about this car, or knew about this money, listen, the only way that anyone knew about the money I received from Youngstown State University was Mickey Monus got indicted on $1.1 million worth of embezzlement and fraud. In documents and public record, they found checks that were written to me. … That’s the only way that this situation came to light. … Other than that, no one in the history of the world would have known the Mickey Monus paid me a dime.”

Isaac wasn’t the only person to refer to at least a portion of the piece as a lie.  Now-retired Youngstown State University president Leslie Cochran told the Youngstown Vindicator that a quote attributed to him in the SI article was, in his words, “fabricated“.

“What bothered me was that the family knows. Inside the family, everyone knows what’s going on,” Cochran reportelyd told the magazine in regard to how Tressel ran the football program.

“I never said that,” Cochrane told the Vindicator; “He absolutely said it.  Not sure what more we can say,” Epstein wrote on Twitter when apprised of Cochran’s denial.

Incidentally, Sports Illustrated, Schad wrote in his Klein article, said it stands by its story.

It remains to be seen whether the Klein family or anyone else will take legal action or whether said legal action would actually gain any traction once it were in the system, although it’s entirely possible Dohrmann/Epstein were burned by a source who may or may not have an ax to grind against a former employer.  What’s hard to fathom, however, is that a journalist as reputable and meticulous as Dohrmann would “lie” in such an explosive piece or “fabricate” a quote.

Just a guess, but we’re thinking that we haven’t heard the last of this SI piece on a whole helluva lot of different fronts.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

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Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.

USC confirms K Matt Boermeester won’t return to Trojans

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What was rumored a few months ago has been confirmed.

In early February, USC announced that an unspecified code of conduct issue had led the football program to indefinitely suspend Matt Boermeester.  At the time, reports had an incident involving the placekicker’s ex-girlfriend as the trigger for the suspension, although no details surrounding that situation were released.

Fast-forward to late July, and the school officially confirmed that Boermeester is no longer a Trojan.

“Boermeester… won’t return because of a student code of conduct issue,” the football program wrote in its preseason notes package.

In his first season as USC’s starting kicker last year, Boermeester connected on 75 percent of his 25 field goal attempts and all but one of his 54 point afters.  His 46-yard field goal with no time left on the clock pushed USC past Penn State in an epic comeback win in the Rose Bowl.

The 18 field goals on which Boermeester connected in 2016 were one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.

Michael Brown is the only other kicker currently listed on USC’s online roster.  Brown has yet to attempt a kick at the collegiate level.

Report: Ole Miss wants NCAA to require two Miss. St. players to attend hearing

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Thanks to off-field events, the Egg Bowl rivalry has ratcheted up a notch or 12 in the last week or so — after ratcheting up several levels the previous months.

Monday, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported that it was a lifelong Mississippi State fan who discovered the infamous call to a number connected to an escort service and led to Hugh Freeze being forcefully ousted at Ole Miss.  Two days later, Schlabach is reporting that attorneys representing the university and former coaches accused of wrongdoing are asking the NCAA that it require two Mississippi State football players, Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, to appear at their hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions later this year.

At this point in time, it’s unclear whether either player has received a notice to appear.

Jones, a four-star 2016 signee, has alleged that an Ole Miss booster paid him upwards of $15,000 as an inducement to go to the Rebels before he signed with the rival Bulldogs. “Lewis also accused Rebels boosters and former coaches of arranging for him to receive free transportation, lodging, food and meals and memorabilia and clothing from Rebel Rags, a retail store in Oxford,” Schlabach wrote Wednesday.

The Oxford retailer filed a lawsuit last month against, among others, Jones and Lewis alleging “defamation, slander, conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA.” On at least three occasions, the Bulldog duo spoke to the NCAA and its investigators regarding their allegations made against the rival program.

From Schlabach’s latest report:

The NCAA previously denied Ole Miss lawyers’ requests to interview Jones and Lewis about allegations they made during the NCAA’s investigation of the Rebels. In fact, Lewis’ attorneys stopped the second of three interviews with NCAA investigators after Ole Miss’ lawyers attempted to cross-examine him. Ole Miss wasn’t allowed to have an attorney at his third interview.

Jones and Lewis were provided partial immunity by NCAA investigators before they were interviewed.

The NCAA has accused the Ole Miss football program of 21 violations, 15 of which are the most serious under The Association’s penalty structure.  Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season as well as stripped itself of seven scholarships.  Additionally, they will forfeit all postseason revenues for the upcoming season, a number in excess of $7 million.  It’s expected the NCAA will add to those self-imposed sanctions.

The university received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA back in February, releasing its response to the NOA early last month.

Former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and his attorney filed a lawsuit earlier this month as well, alleging that Freeze and other Ole Miss officials engaged in a clandestine smear campaign to pin the NCAA investigation into the Rebels’ football program in large part on Nutt. The lawsuit levied some rather serious allegations, including Freeze allegedly conducting off-the-record conversations with prominent journalists and recruits to falsely spread the narrative that the lion’s share of NCAA recruiting violations occurred under Nutt’s watch.

4-star 2018 QB with offers from Tennessee, Washington commits to… Princeton

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I have no clue how long this commitment will last, but it’s patently awesome.  And spectacular.

Brevin White is a 2018 recruit who 247Sports.com has pegged as a four-star prospect.  The same recruiting website rates the California high school product as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 39 player at any position in the state.

White, the younger brother of redshirt sophomore Arizona State quarterback Brady White, currently holds scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona State, Oregon State, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Washington State.  Tuesday night, the younger White signal-caller took to Twitter to announce his program of choice, and revealed that he would be playing his college football at… Princeton.

Selfishly, I hope this verbal holds.  To see a young man with Power Five options go, at least for now, the Ivy League route is utterly refreshing on multiple levels.

And the fact that the P5s involved have to be borderline beside themselves?  Priceless.