Terrelle Pryor Golf

Email warned Tressel of Talbott in 2007


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.