Email warned Tressel of Talbott in 2007

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It was a series of emails starting in April of 2010 that ultimately led to the downfall of Jim Tressel and could lead to significant sanctions placed on the Ohio State football program.

Unbelievably, there’s yet another bit of electronic mail sent three years earlier that has surfaced and could give The Association an additional punitive bullet to place in their chamber ahead of an August hearing.

Continuing a dogged spate of investigative reporting by Doug Lesmerises, the Cleveland Plain Dealer beat writer reported Friday evening that on at least two occasions Tressel or someone in the athletic department were warned about an individual named Dennis Talbott.  Talbott, if you recall, is the Columbus freelance photographer/memorabilia purveyor who was accused in an ESPN Outside the Lines piece earlier this week of giving former quarterback Terrelle Pryor $20,000-$40,000 in a one-year period in exchange for his signature on memorabilia.

The first warning, Lesmerises reports, occurred in March of 2007, over a year prior to Pryor’s arrival in Columbus.  And, it came in the form of an email missive directly to Tressel — to the same email address Chris Cicero sent the April 2010 emails — warning the then-head coach of Talbott’s dealing with underclassmen in the football program.

The Plain Dealer obtained the email sent on March 27, 2007, to tressel.3@osu.edu and posted the content of the message regarding Talbott to the coach:

He has sold over 50 items with underclassmen signatures before their eligibility expires and would seem to be someone that both you and the university is aware of. I have a full report of his eBay activities if you would like to explore further or require documentation.”

It’s unclear if there was a response from Tressel to the unnamed sender of the email because, as the paper writes, “the school does not retain email records that are more than three years old.”

In previous reports, the just-as-dogged website SportsByBrooks.com reported that Talbott had extensive ties to not only Pryor but several members of the football program by way of his memorabilia business or businesses.

In addition to the email warning in 2007, the OSU athletic department was warned again in the summer of 2009 by two employees of a Columbus-area country club, of which Talbott was a member.

Two employees of Scioto Reserve Golf Club contacted members of the athletic department after seeing Talbott and Pryor golfing together. One employee said he talked to an Ohio State assistant coach he knew socially, and was told the matter would be taken care of. Another employee, Regan Koivisto, the club’s general manager, said he called the football office and detailed his concerns while talking to an administrative assistant.

“I just thought it would be best if the coaching staff was aware, because I’m certain they always had their players’ best interests in mind and would want to know,” Koivisto told The Plain Dealer.

ESPN.com had also reported earlier today that Talbott and Pryor golfed together on multiple occasions at the Scioto country club in the summer of 2008, before Pryor had even played a down for the Buckeyes.  Koivisto, the club’s general manager, reiterated to the paper that the golf involving Pryor occurred in 2009 and not 2008 as ESPN.com had reported.

However, there is a discrepancy involving Koivisto that remains.  The club manager told the Plain Dealer that, when he spoke to the administrative assistant — reportedly Tressel’s secretary — he was asked if he wanted the coach to call him back; the paper wrote that “he felt that was unnecessary because he’d provided all the information he knew.”

Koivisto, however, gave a significantly different version to ESPN.com.

“She asked, ‘Can I have Coach Tressel call you?’ I said, ‘He can,’ ” Koivisto was quoted as saying on the ESPN website. “Coach never did call me back. But I never saw Pryor at the club again.”

Regardless, Talbott has denied paying for any of the football players who had golfed with him.  He has also vehemently denied paying any type of money to Pryor, period.

After being warned about the potential issues involving Talbott and players in March of 2007 and the summer of 2009, Talbott remained a credentialed sideline photographer for OSU football games during the 2009 season.  In 2010, and after Tressel first learned through emails that there were likely impermissible benefits involving Pryor as well as others, Talbott was not a credentialed photographer.  Talbott claimed that he decided against applying for a credential last year as he wanted to attend the games as a fan.

It remains to be seen what if any impact this latest in a long line of developments has on the NCAA’s investigation or the school’s appearance in front of the Committee on Infractions Aug. 12.  However, if Tressel or the school were aware of a potential issue involving Talbott and did not act on them for what appears to be a period of at least a couple of years?

Much like Tressel’s initial cover-up and lies, we’re guessing the NCAA would not appreciate it in the least.  And the NCAA’s sanctions will ultimately show exactly that.

A.J. Brown powers Ole Miss to Egg Bowl win over No. 15 Mississippi State

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No. 14 Mississippi State lost their quarterback, lost the game, lost the Egg Bowl trophy and lost a year’s worth of rivalry trash talk in one fell swoop on a chilly Thanksgiving evening at home. To add insult to injury, they lost all that at the hands of a Starkville native to boot as star receiver A.J. Brown powered Ole Miss to their sweetest victory of the year over their in-state rivals 31-28.

The Rebels needed just three plays and 39 seconds to open the scoring in what was perhaps the team’s best all-around game in several weeks, showing no signs of any tryptophan-induced sluggishness following a traditional turkey day meal. Brown finished the game with 167 yards receiving and a 77 yard touchdown to cap off a terrific return to his hometown in opposing colors, while tailback Jordan Wilkins also chipped in with another 110 yards and two scores on the ground to pace the offense.

The old Landshark defense also made an appearance, with the second worst team in all of FBS when it came to forcing turnovers managing to secure a whopping five turnovers and three sacks.

While the loss was undoubtedly disappointing for the Bulldogs, most of the team’s attention was on their star quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald. He entered the game on the verge of another 2,000 yard passing/1,000 yard rushing season but was tackled awkwardly on a three yard run early in the first quarter. Replays showed his ankle to be facing a much different direction than it should as part of a gruesome scene and the signal-caller was carted off to the team’s medical facilities shortly thereafter amid a raucous applause from fans on both sides.

Fitzgerald later returned to the sidelines to cheer on his teammates but it certainly appears that his promising season is over as Mississippi State turns their attention to a bowl game in the coming weeks.

Stepping in at quarterback was freshman Keytaon Thompson, who was much more of a threat with his legs than his arm until a few late drives. He finished the night with 195 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a team-high 121 yards rushing (with another score) in relief. Tailback Aeris Williams managed to rack up 82 yards and a score but faced a stacked line of scrimmage at every turn given the injury to his veteran teammate.

While the injury to Fitzgerald overshadowed the game, the backdrop of Ole Miss’ NCAA infractions case loomed large over the rivalry as much as the game itself. The two schools’ fan bases have been quite chippy and MSU linebacker Leo Lewis — a central figure in the case — was kept in check to the tune of two tackles and a half a sack as the Rebels didn’t attack him like some thought they would.

Perhaps more pressing to some Bulldogs fans is if that was the last Egg Bowl they would see with head coach Dan Mullen patrolling the sidelines. His name has been linked to openings at Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and others in the past few weeks and there is a growing expectation that the most successful coach in school history could have just donned the maroon and white for the final time in a loss.

That’s of no concern across the way as interim coach Matt Luke did a good job rallying the team to their sixth win of the season. The Rebels are not bowl eligible as part of self-imposed sanctions but the satisfaction of beating their rivals probably takes the sting out of that fact just a little bit, especially with a Starkville native like Brown leading the way on Thursday night.

Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald suffers gruesome ankle injury to spoil first half of the Egg Bowl

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The Egg Bowl has returned to Thanksgiving but the game hasn’t gone quite as planned for No. 14 Mississippi State, as they trail Ole Miss 10-6 after a low-scoring first half of play thanks to a shocking injury that brought both sides of the heated rivalry to their feet in unison.

That came early in the first quarter when Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was tackled after a three-yard run, suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the process that saw his foot point in a direction it certainly wasn’t supposed to. He was put in an air cast and carted off the field to perform x-rays immediately afterward and needless to say will not return to the game.

The productive signal-caller was just 1-of-5 passing with an interception and 16 yards rushing when he went down with the injury. Fitzgerald was approaching the 2,000 yard passing and 1,000 yard rushing marks for the season heading into the game and received plenty of support from his fellow football players around the SEC and beyond after suffering such a horrific-looking injury that appears to knock him out for the rest of 2017.

Freshman Keytaon Thompson replaced Fitzgerald behind center and went 3-of-5 passing for 32 yards and an interception. He’s known for his running ability at this stage and did manage a team-high 65 yards on the ground, including a 32 yard scamper. Running back Aeris Williams was fairly limited facing a stacked box against a new quarterback and ran for 41 yards in the half as turnovers (three of them) really hampered MSU in the half.

With Ole Miss ineligible for postseason play even if they won on Thursday night, it was not at all surprising to see the Rebels play better than they have in a long time. The team needed just three plays and 39 seconds on their opening possession to find the end zone and were punching far above their weight defensively too. Wide receiver A.J. Brown was the big play threat once again for the offense, with five catches and 90 yards after just a half of play. In the process, he set a new school single-season record for receiving yards and joined kicker Greg Wunderlich (all-time school leader in FG’s) in the record books for the visitors as they look to  get a little bit of payback for last year’s 55-20 loss in Oxford.

The two programs have split the last six meetings in the hotly contested Egg Bowl rivalry and both appear locked into another close one after a half of play. It’s too bad that an injury to an all-SEC player had to spoil things early on but both the Bulldogs and the Rebels will have to put that behind them as they emerge from the locker room hoping to secure a win after years worth of bad blood.

Odell Beckham Jr. gifts LSU players recently unveiled custom shoes ahead of regular season finale

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LSU has produced plenty of NFL stars in recent years but few identify with the Tigers quite like New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. does. The Baton Rouge native recently released his first “lifestyle” shoe with Nike last week and has been hitting the press circuit almost as hard as the rehab room as a result to showcase the new kicks.

Not one to forget where he went to school and blossomed into a first round pick, Beckham filmed a video for LSU’s football team this week and really gave the Tigers something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving by giving every player on the team a version of the shoe to wear when they’re suiting up in cleats.

The color isn’t quite a true match for LSU gold but it’s certainly pretty close and even comes with the longitude and latitude of Baton Rouge inscribed. You can probably bet that the team will be wearing them to Tiger Stadium prior to taking on Texas A&M on Saturday in the regular season finale for both sides.

Wisconsin breaking out the plaid in battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Minnesota

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No. 5 Wisconsin continues to play for an undefeated record and hold out hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff this week but the Badgers are also chasing something pretty important too when they take on Minnesota on Saturday: Paul Bunyan’s Axe. One of the best rivalry trophies in the sport has resided in Madison for the past 13 years but might carry on bigger implications given what’s at stake for the visitors when they arrive in Minneapolis, especially facing off against a Gophers team hoping to make it to a bowl game with another win.

Paul Chryst and company aren’t just treating this as any other Big Ten game however and teaming up with Under Armour to go well beyond ludicrous… and all the way to plaid. Well, “lumberjack plaid” to be precise, as the accents on their uniforms, gloves and shoes will all have a different spin on their normal colors.

While it’s a subtle difference, it is a pretty slick look for the Badgers as they take on their rivals. No word yet on what P.J. Fleck and the home team will break out in response but hopefully they rise to the occasion that the Axe commands.