Ohio v Ohio State

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.

Pat Narduzzi believes Pitt RB James Conner will play in 2016

In this photo taken Nov. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, right, applauds a touchdown by his team next to James Conner in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Pittsburgh. Conner spent the last three months weighing whether to return next fall or head to the NFL after a torn knee ligament ended his junior season before it really began. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MONESSEN OUT; KITTANNING OUT; CONNELLSVILLE OUT; GREENSBURG OUT; TARENTUM OUT; NORTH HILLS NEWS RECORD OUT; BUTLER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
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The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.

“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”

The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.

The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs for a first down against Temple during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Houston won 24-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.

Former Wolverine Brian Cole transferring to Kentucky

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013, file photo, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops watches from the sideline during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. Stoops has recruited some high-level talent since coming to Lexington three years ago and the Wildcats have taken substantial steps forward. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
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Maybe it’s the new uniforms. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. Whatever the reason, former Michigan wide receiver and defensive back Brian Cole is heading to Kentucky.

Cole was a four-star recruit in Michigan’s Class of 2015. The second-ranked player from the state of Michigan was a significant addition to the Wolverines by then first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, which helps make his decision to leave for another program now a bit interesting to note considering the momentum seemingly being generated in Ann Arbor. He was released from his scholarship in Michigan in January.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Cole will be forced to sit out the 2016 season and will be eligible to return to the playing field again in 2017. The good news for Cole is he will still have three years of eligibility remaining.

Cole appeared in two games for the Wolverines in 2015, but he spent most of the season held back by injury issues. His addition to the Kentucky roster is a big win for head coach Mark Stoops, who has developed a little bit of a habit for adding some talented transfers to his program in Lexington.

Michigan and Notre Dame could be rekindling their football series

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 1994, file photo, Notre Dame's Derrick Mayes (1) pulls in a touchdown catch in front of Michigan's Chuck Winters (35) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. Mayes may have grabbed this spectacular catch for a score, but Michigan's Remy Hamilton kicked four field goals, including a 42-yarder with 2 seconds left, to give the Wolverines a 26-24  victory. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)
AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File
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The bitter divorce between Michigan and Notre Dame on the football field could soon be forgiven. There are hints and clues the series could be heading to a revival.

Michigan athletics director Jim Hackett started lighting the fire for the rivalry series renewal discussion last week when he mentioned during a radio interview the two schools have opened communication on the subject.

“I will tell you this, the relationship is good, and it started with [Jim Harbaugh] and coach [Brian Kelly] working together on a desire to play together,” Hackett said. “But (there’s) nothing firm yet.”

In 2013, when the two schools were beginning to play what was to be their final game son the existing contract, Kelly downplayed the rivalry with Michigan by noting it has not been one of the best rivalries in Notre Dame’s history. In his defense, he is right. In fact, Notre Dame has a more storied history with Michigan State, not to mention USC or Navy.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

Kelly did later go on to say he was optimistic the series with Michigan would return in the future. Harbaugh was quick to follow up on the idea of playing Notre Dame again. Now we just sit and wait to see when that may become a possibility.

Scheduling for both Michigan and Notre Dame have become a bit more complex in more recent years than it used to be. Notre Dame is part of an ACC scheduling rotation that guarantees a certain number of power conference opponents from the ACC each season and the Irish continue rivalry game son an annual basis with USC, Stanford and Navy. Michigan is moving to a nine-game Big Ten schedule with the requirement to play at least one power conference opponent in its non-conference slate each season. The Wolverines already have that requirement met through the 2027 season but have shown a willingness to schedule two power conference opponents in a season, which is the case in 2020 and 2021 (games vs. Washington and Virginia Tech in alternating home-and-home deals).