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.