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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.