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ESPN files complaint against Ohio State over access to emails


Not only does Ohio State have NCAA issues with which to deal, the school now has a “minor” legal issue to contend with as well.

In a complaint filed Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court, ESPN is asking the court to compel Ohio State to release emails sent/received by OSU officials relating to the scandal that has plagued the football program over the past few months.  Specifically, ESPN is requesting the following in the complaint:

…a Writ of Mandamus ordering Ohio State to make available copies of all emails, letters and memos to and from Jim Tressel, Gordon Gee, Doug Archie, and/or Gene Smith with key word Sarniak since March 15, 2007, all documents and emails, letters and memos related to NCAA investigations prepared for and/or forwarded to the NCAA since 1/1/2010 related to an investigation of Jim Tressel, any and all emails or documents listing people officially barred from student-athlete pass lists (game tickets) since January 1, 2007, any report, email or other correspondence between the NCAA and Doug Archie or any other Ohio State athletic department official related to any violation (including secondary violation) of NCAA rules involving the football program, since January 1, 2005 …

The “Sarniak” the complaint refers to is Ted Sarniak, a businessman from former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s hometown of Jeanette, Pa.  Archie, the OSU compliance director, had previously described Sarniak as ” someone who Terrelle had reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career.”

Sarniak was also previously identified as being the lone individual to receive emails from Tressel regarding potential NCAA violations committed by a handful of his players, including Pryor.  Those emails were not forwarded to anyone in a position of authority at the university and ultimately led to self-imposed sanctions for major violations as well as Tressel ultimately being compelled to step down as head coach.

In the complaint, ESPN contends that individuals employed by the company “made several written public records requests to Ohio State” regarding the the emails but were either denied based on Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerns on the part of the school; the pending NCAA investigation, for which they provided no explanation for the legal authority the denial was based upon as required by law; or “summarily denied ESPN’s requests as overbroad, without citing legal authority for that denial, or providing ESPN with the opportunity to revise the request.”

ESPN is seeking “a judgment awarding attorney’s fees and court costs associated with bringing this action.”

ESPN concluded their “Memorandum in Support of Complaint for Writ of Mandamus” by writing that “[t]he events surrounding the Ohio State football program in this past year should sadden not only football fans, but anyone concerned with collegiate sports, academic integrity and accountability. But that sadness does not mean that the events should be secret. This court should join with courts from around the country in sending an unmistakable message to collegiate athletic departments – do not attempt to cover up your misdeeds behind FERPA and honor your obligations under the PRA. And it should do so by granting ESPN’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus.”

Ohio State has yet to respond to the complaint filed by ESPN.

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47 Responses to “ESPN files complaint against Ohio State over access to emails”
  1. ldbright says: Jul 11, 2011 7:25 PM

    I know ESPN is just doing their job but DAMN!! I really don’t care to see the emails and I’m kind of on Ohio States side to keep some things private. Being an Indiana alum who likes to see the Big 10 do well in football, I’ve rooted for the Buckeyes a lot lately but after this mess, and the way the state of Ohio acted after the LeBron fiasco I’ve made a “decision” to not root for anything Ohio for awhile. I’ll support them on this email situation but I will now take my fandom from Ohio State to Wisconsin and Michigan as well as my beloved Hoosiers! Go IU! Go Blue! On Wisconsin!

  2. thekatman says: Jul 11, 2011 7:31 PM

    The SportsbyBrooks website had published many emails relating to the OSU/Tressell issue and can be found here:

    Ohio State has commited serious NCAA infractions of the primary nature. The COI, by not inflicting LOIC and “not fostering an atmosphere of complioance” penalties against the OSU athletic department only shows how deeply corrupt the NCAA is, and shows its bias to the Big 10.

    I forsee the AD and the Univ president to step down or fired by October 2011, if the OSU Board of Regents and the Alumni Association/Booster Clubs have anything to do with this. And even when that happens it won’t save OSU from the harshest of penalties that make the outlandish USC penalties seem like childs play…. if Mark Emmert is true to his word of enacting a strong compliance oriented NCAA.

    Time will tell.

  3. polegojim says: Jul 11, 2011 7:41 PM

    Please ESPN – Stop Insulting Our Intelligence

    Don’t get on the soap box of morality and justice. You just want the entire Scoop to print, broadcast and make money. Talk about trying to veil a motive.

    What’s the real value?
    Isn’t OSU reporting to the NCAA sufficient?
    Why should OSU owe ESPN anything?

  4. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 7:44 PM

    As a sports fan with a journalism background and a privacy advocate, I have mixed feelings on this. But I can comment with certainty on a couple of issues.

    First, I see no reason for ESPN to seek a judgment awarding attorneys’ fees and court costs. This is the price of doing business for a media company. No one is forcing ESPN to sue for these documents; they can cover the costs of the suit themselves.

    Second, their assertion that “[t]he events surrounding the Ohio State football program in this past year should sadden not only football fans, but anyone concerned with collegiate sports, academic integrity and accountability” is overkill. Yes, it’s sad … but it didn’t have a bloody thing to do with OSU’s academic integrity.

    At the end of the day, some kids traded some merchandise and autographs for tats and cash. Their coach became aware of it, should have reported it, and didn’t. Apparently he exchanged some e-mails with his star QB’s mentor. Should all e-mails between a coach and a student’s mentor be available for public consumption because the student was involved in an NCAA violation?

    My gut says no.

  5. thekatman says: Jul 11, 2011 7:55 PM

    OSU fans, don’t ride your horse too high now. Yes, there aren’t any academic issues related to this problem, but 5 players, including the star QB, who is a role model and leader of the team, broke NCAA rules… and to the tune of more than $50k+. Heck Pryor’s cash is estimated at $40k+.

    USC got hammered by the NCAA for Reggie’s $40k. Yes, ESPN and others report that Reggie Bush took $300k in monetary benefits, but actually it is about $40k. His mom and step-dad took the extra benefits by living in a house rent-free, as arranged with Lloyd Lake. Lake, when he realized Reggie Bush wasn’t going to sign with his “new found”, non sponsored or sanctioned sports marketing company…. really a street thug trying to make a buck off another street thug, … decided to sue Reggie Buish and take his story to the press. Yes, not a good thing on the part of Reggie Bush, but schools cannot control what parents do outside of the school’s jurisdiction. According to the NCAA, the school should’ve known about the “cash” transactions between Reggie’s parents and the street thugs, Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels…… with that said, my friends, OSU folks better be on your best behavior because the NCAA now has to prove to the sports world that the USC penalties and sanctions were not excessive for the misdeeds of one athlete.

    Hmm, now let’s remember that the NCAA busted USC for 30 schollies over 3 years for one athlete. OSU has 5 athletes and a head coach, plus the others that have come out and made their peace… upt o20 at last count…. so 30 x 20 = 600 schollies over 3 years. Not gonna happen, but, the NCAA is order to be fair about this must sanction OSu far more than the 30 over 3 they hit USC with.

    Again, time will tell, but don’t hold your breath that the NCAA will roll over with OSU’s mea culpa from last week.

  6. arizcohn says: Jul 11, 2011 8:11 PM


    1) Actually, technically, OSU is forcing ESPN to sue, by not turning over the records under the Ohio Open Records Act. That law provides for the award of court costs and attorneys’ fees not only as a way of reimbursing plaintiffs who are forced to go to court due to an agency’s stonewalling, but also to provide incentive for agencies to comply with the law without playing games and acting in bad faith; if they know they will get socked with fees, they are less likely to violate the Open Records Act. So ESPN’s request for costs and fees is not only allowed by statute, but it is important in order to incentivize compliance.

    2) Probably not, but that embellishment doesn’t really change much. Take it away and the case is still compelling.

    3) No, it should be available for “public consumption” because it is a record of a state agency subject to Open Record laws. Emails sent/received and retained by the university (again, a state agency) are clearly records under the act, either by explicit definition, or a slew of legal precedent. Open record laws are a key way in which our government is subjected to oversight of its citizens. For someone with a purported “journalism background,” you should know that.

  7. mike2347 says: Jul 11, 2011 8:36 PM

    The 40 grand is a fabricated figure,just like the crap reported by si’s dorkman.The last count is 20?Who’s counting,mr. ED? USC’s biggest mistake was letting Garret run his mouth after the real facts were presented.The best thing that could happen to espn and their 500 chris berman wanna be’s is all conference’s create their own networks,join together and boot espn to the curb.

  8. xoxoemilyrae says: Jul 11, 2011 8:51 PM

    Actually, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act forbids Ohio State from releasing the emails since they concern a student, be it a former student or not. If OSU released the emails, the football players involved could sue OSU! So ESPN is not going to win.

  9. florida727 says: Jul 11, 2011 9:12 PM

    Wait a minute. “xoxoemilyrae”. You’re citing a LAW that actually makes sense? Holy crap!

    Seriously… glad you cited the FERP Act. ESPN has no moral or ethical “right” to that information. Deb is right, they’re only interested in it because they want to maintain their position as the “worldwide leader in sports”. Let’s face it, they’re a monster that’s been created, and now it’s time to pay the price for it. What’s that whole reap-what-you-sow thing?

    Deb’s gut “may” have said no, but mine’s a little more definitive. I hope ESPN gets their @$$ handed to them in court and THEY are the ones forced to pay attorneys fees and court costs. Time for the tail to quit wagging the dog.

  10. WingT says: Jul 11, 2011 9:17 PM

    What is the harm in expecting public entities to turn over all records?

    What is there to hide?

  11. arizcohn says: Jul 11, 2011 9:24 PM

    @xoxo & florida:

    It’s not definitive that the school will be able to withhold on FERPA grounds. A court in Illinois recently held that the exemption for records prohibited by law does not apply to FERPA records because a school could theoretically refuse federal funding and thus the documents aren’t actually “prohibited” by law (rather the school voluntarily took on that obligation not to release them).

    So while FERPA creates an issue (and not all of the refused records are claimed under FERPA), it’s certainly NOT cut and dry.

  12. dirtyharry1971 says: Jul 11, 2011 10:08 PM

    I want to see these emails so the world knows just how dirty of a program OSU really was and to further disgrace a low life university

  13. floriosbigtoe says: Jul 11, 2011 10:42 PM

    Why not ask for EVERY e-mail from EVERY single college program then? If they really care about being fair…

  14. arizcohn says: Jul 11, 2011 10:52 PM


    It’s not ESPN’s job to report on every college email ever. They have a story, and they’re running in it. I think ESPN is as stupid as anyone, but I’m not about to criticize them for covering actual news (especially when there are tons of legit things to criticize them for). It isn’t about being “fair.”

    Besides, Open Records/Freedom of Information requests have to be relatively specific in scope, or they can be denied on the basis of overbreadth.

  15. tmb333 says: Jul 11, 2011 11:32 PM

    If a court orders the release FERPA becomes irrelevant:

    •Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

    ◦School officials with legitimate educational interest;

    ◦Other schools to which a student is transferring;

    ◦Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;

    ◦Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;

    ◦Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;

    ◦Accrediting organizations;

    ◦To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;

    ◦Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and

    ◦State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

  16. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 11:40 PM

    @arizcohn …

    Well, well … you’ve had a free ride this evening, haven’t you?

    My journalism degree is real, and I’ll bet Missouri’s reputation as a journalism school whatever university popped you from its basement. I’m also quite familiar with open records laws and their application to government agencies. But I don’t agree that a state university qualities as an agency. The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) exists for a reason. As someone purported blog lawyer, you should know it’s there to protect students from unwarranted intrusion.

    This is not a case of a state agency misusing public funds and a media outlet trying to investigate for the good of the public. The FOI laws were passed to ensure the government acts in full view of the people. Just because Ohio State is a government-funded institution does not mean its students must give up their right to privacy.

    ESPN simply wants to peruse the personal e-mails exchanged between a former football coach and the mentor of one of his former players, a student who happened to be involved in an NCAA violation. The school has turned over the relevant files to the NCAA. I can’t think of any reason why ESPN needs those files. It’s certainly not to “protect” the people as you so dramatically claim by linking this to media investigations of government agencies.

    I wasn’t playing lawyer, as you are, and offering legal opinions. I was doing what everyone else does on the blog and offering my personal opinion that Disney/ABC/ESPN can pay its own bloody legal fees for its nosiness instead of expecting a state university to pay for its rock-turning. I was also going with my gut in saying the media doesn’t need to see personal e-mails about a COLLEGE KID who traded some merchandise and autographs for tattoos. This isn’t an elected official on the take. The coach has been fired. The kid has left the school. Enough already.

    And as for that completely unprovoked shot you took, you can kiss my lovely lil Southern backside, you arrogant jackass.

  17. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 11:50 PM

    Well, arizcohn, you actually managed to annoy me enough that I made three typos in the opening paragraph. That’s rare. Twit.

  18. whatswiththehate says: Jul 11, 2011 11:54 PM

    Once upon a time, ESPN was a sport entertainment network. It’s now a giant with an ego to match. Sad…

    When is someone going to knock ESPN down a few notches?

  19. xoxoemilyrae says: Jul 12, 2011 12:10 AM


    A college or university is NOT a “state agency.” The Ohio State University receives less than 6% of their total funding from the state. If universities were “state agencies,” they would be required to release grades, transcripts, financial aid information, etc.. every time someone asked under the “Open Records Act.” Colleges and universities are not state agencies for pretty much this exact reason: to protect the students.

    ESPN does not need anything. Nor, actually, are they entitled to jack crap. So really, ESPN should have to pay Ohio State’s legal fees for making them deal with this bull.

    Ohio State is first and foremost an ACADEMIC institution, and ESPN has forgotten that. Making OSU pay for their legal fees doesn’t just hurt the football program, it hurts the university and the students that are there to LEARN and further their education.

  20. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 12:26 AM


    Well it doesn’t really matter what you THINK about state universities being government agencies, for the purpose of FOI/OR laws, they ARE. Anyone who claims to be familiar with these laws would or should know this. Check the precedent, it’s there… Or just read the definition of “public record” in the Ohio Open Records Act. That’s black-letter law, so if you’re going to try to call me out, better make sure you’re right (I don’t just play lawyer, I am one too!).

    The taxpayers of Ohio pay for the state universities. Which means it is appropriate for the citizens of Ohio to be scrutinizing their operation. The potential ramifications of this is huge. Who pays the bills when the university has to engage in investigation, NCAA compliance, and litigation? The money doesn’t appear from thin air, it comes from…that’s right…the taxpayers. And given the implications on the moral turpitude of these public employees, including OSU’s president (who may have known about this all along), it’s even more appropriate for citizen oversight. How you think that this is none of the Ohio citizens’ concern is beyond me.

    And just because people have left and been fired does not remove the right of the people of Ohio to discover what went on. Shall we say that when a corrupt official resigns, it’s no longer relevant? No, it still happened, and the people have a right to know how and why.

    Given the enormous budget that OSU commands, and the fact that a lot of that money comes from taxpayers, it is inconceivable to argue that there’s no reason that people need to know anything.

    Finally, regarding FERPA. First, not even close to everything requested could be covered by FERPA. To be protected by FERPA, a record has to directly relate to an identifiable student. It’s likely only a small subset fall under this category. Further, even if some ARE covered by FERPA, it’s still debatable on whether that exempts them from FOI/OR requests (see the recent Illinois litigation).

    To sum up: you’re wrong, and your name-calling (which was quite uncalled-for) doesn’t change that one bit.


  21. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 12:30 AM

    @whatswiththehate …

    With you on this one for a change ;) Good post.

    @xoxoemilyrae …

    Excellent posts tonight!!

  22. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 12:32 AM


    “[A] state university is considered a “public office” for purposes of the Public Records Act. See Halaby v. Bd. of Directors of Univ. of Cincinnati, 162 Ohio St. 290 (1954).

    So, um, yea, it is. Certain things MAY be covered by FERPA (again, currently there are legal challenges mounted to whether that actually constitutes an exemption), but OSU is most certainly a government agency for Open Records purposes.

  23. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 12:48 AM

    And as tmb333 pointed out, the issue isn’t really whether FERPA prohibits the university from releasing them. It’s whether records as covered by FERPA fall under the exemption for:

    (v) Records the release of which is prohibited by state or federal law;

    There’s currently disagreement over whether FERPA actually prohibits release of the records. On one hand (and I’m tempted to agree), yea, it does. But the opposing side says that schools could refuse federal funding and then wouldn’t be bound by FERPA at all. Therefore, it’s not prohibited as much as the university promised not to release those records as a condition for funding. It’s an interesting argument. There needs to be some balancing of privacy issues, as well as a recognition of reality…that is, the school did accept funding and therefore is bound by FERPA, and so in practicality IS prohibited (not to mention, the students’ expectations of privacy coming in).

    But if the court does interpret the Open Records law in a way that forces OSU to release the records, then the school won’t be in violation of FERPA because of the “lawfully issued order or subpoena” provision.

  24. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 1:20 AM

    @arizcohn …

    You are the one who first took a nasty adversarial tone. I’m just more up front with my insults. You must be a corporate or plaintiff’s attorney. My brother and sis-in-law are criminal defense attorneys and don’t shrink from staightforwardness. But then … they spend a lot of time in a courtroom.

    Yes, I have a writer’s familiarity with the FOIA and open-records laws. I am not well-versed in Ohio records laws–nor have I claimed to be. Yes, Ohio State commands a large budget and circumstances could easily arise that would warrant a media investigation of Ohio State and a request for records through state and/or federal open-records laws. In my opinion–which I am entitled to hold–this is not one of them.

    If you’ll reread my posts, you’ll see I’ve specifically condemned ESPN’s attempts to get the e-mails between Tressel and Pryor’s mentor Sarniak and have not referenced any other documents in the request. I do not believe ESPN is requesting those e-mails on behalf of defrauded Ohio taxpayers, or that those e-mails are necessary to investigate institutional corruption within either the academic or the athletic program at Ohio State. This is tabloid journalism.

    And–again–although they may be entitled to recoup expenses should they win, I was sharing my opinion that a corporate entity with ESPN’s resources should not be bilking the taxpayers of Ohio for legal fees in order to read personal e-mails regarding a former OSU student. Interesting how you’re so concerned about Ohio taxpayers in one paragraph and so unconcerned in the next.

    To sum up, it’s my opinion that ESPN isn’t engaged in a valid investigation of a government agency … and your underhanded dig at my “purported journalism background” doesn’t change that one bit. Neither does your whining at getting back as good as you send.

  25. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 1:34 AM

    If that’s your opinion, then fine. But as far as the law goes, in every state I’ve encountered (and likely all of them), a public university is emphatically subject to FOI/OR.

    The thing is, you can’t really draw a line based on who is requesting the documents. That gets extremely messy. You’ll notice I said that I have no great love for ESPN. I think that everyone they hire other than Charles Barkley is an abject moron. Do I think they have noble intentions? Hell no. But they are entitled to use the law the same as anyone else.

    So in the end, I may agree with your underlying frustration and dislike for ESPN, but the law’s the law. If the taxpayers in Ohio get screwed, it will be because a public official screwed them by not complying. I’m not going to blame ESPN for OSU’s actions.

    And, I’m actually neither. I’m a First Amendment attorney, which makes me sensitive to the nuance of things like this, and yea, makes me a bit snarky about it. So fwiw, apologies for being curt.

  26. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 2:14 AM

    Hi. I’m a relatively intelligent female regular on a football blog just offering a casual opinion in this instance. But on many controversial subjects, I’ve offered thoroughly researched comments that have made me (especially on the pro side) a lightning rod for snarkiness, stalkers, haters, people who’ll thumbs down anything with my name on it … sigh. So I’m always hyper-fast with the salty comebacks. Apology accepted, thank you. Sorry for being so rough in my comeback. (By the way, you probably have a whole slew of fans just for barking at me in this thread ;) )

    As I said initially, I’m torn because this is the first time I can remember being against a media outlet pushing for documents through an open records law. It’s so ironic. I’ve spent all summer defending Ohio State, and I don’t even like them.

    But, honestly, I’m in Central Florida and really burned out on the media abuses surrounding the whole Casey Anthony thing. Her guilt is a separate issue. I’m not defending the woman. But they released recordings of her jailhouse phone conversations and visits to the public prior to the trial. Is that what our founders had in mind when they set up the judicial system? I’m sure you’re familiar with the News of the World situation in the UK, and God only knows what Murdoch’s lackeys are doing this side of the Atlantic. Now ESPN wants e-mails between Tressel and this kid’s mentor. I realize there’s no specific Constitutional guarantee of privacy, but this stuff has all gone too far. And I do think ESPN is abusing the intention of the open-records laws. When is the last time they actually did any “investigative” reporting?

    Okay, if you’re in AZ, we’re in very different time zones and I have to go to bed. Apologies if you’re a Murdoch fan.

  27. rajbais says: Jul 12, 2011 9:31 AM

    Hey!!! Four-letter Network!!!!

    You’re more of a phony than Jim Tressel!!! You act like these athletes are amateurs when they deserve rule changes for their benefits and you’re “trying to take a stand with what’s good for the athletes, (more importantly) the public but are only gathering disingenuous looking crap to get more web hits!!!

    Stop being attention whores!! We get it!!! The Buckeyes are guilty of violating disgusting and archaic rules that need to be changed!!! Academic scholarship students aren’t put under the same restrictions or anything similar!!!

  28. dkhhuey says: Jul 12, 2011 10:30 AM

    Damn – open a window and turn on a fan – it got all lawyerly up in this place!!!

    Allow me to bring it back down to the gutter: ESPN can suck on my Buckeye Nuts!!! What use to be a great network has turned into nothing more than a Entertainment Tonight with a bunch of egotistical blowhards more concerned about their personal images than actually reporting on sporting events. I’ve seen better reporting coming out of high school news letters then what ESPN vomits out on a daily basis.

  29. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 11:36 AM

    @rajbais … Brilliant comment!

    @dkhhuey … Considerably more gutter-worthy, but appreciate the sentiment lol

  30. xoxoemilyrae says: Jul 12, 2011 12:16 PM


    I’m a little lost on why you are saying the “tax payers of Ohio should be outraged.” I am a student at Ohio State, and I can tell you with absolute certainty, that Ohio State barely gets anything from the state in terms of money. Like I said before, they give us less than 6% of our budget. (And that stat is from 4 years ago, I guarantee its less now.)

    Also, the taxpayers (and the state) won’t be giving us jack crap to fund the investigations, fines, etc. etc. Like I said, we get what they budget towards us and thats it. If the state had their way, they wouldn’t give us anything.

    AND the state has actually cut ALL FUNDING for the grants they give out every year. Not a single dollar will be given from the state for financial aid.

    So last time I checked, 6% doesn’t really qualify the state for anything. If anyone has a right to check up on us, its Les Wexner. THAT is who gives us the most money. Technically, based on money given, we should be The Ohio Wexner University.

    But again, lets discuss taxpayers. Have Ohio taxes gone up? That would be a no. Have more Ohio tax dollars gone to the school since this news broke? That would also be a no. The amount each taxpayer pays towards all Ohio universities is so microscopic, its not even funny. It may be called a “state” university, but the money tells a different story.

  31. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 12:56 PM


    1) OSU still gets $590 million dollars from the state government. That’s no small number. More tax dollars might not have gone toward OSU as a result, but they are still being misused. Investigation and litigation costs for things like this could end up well over a million. Wouldn’t you rather have that money go toward something like hiring renowned faculty or adding courses? Or is that money so comparatively small that you don’t give a damn if it’s wasted? The point is not comparative numbers, it’s that government money is being wasted because of this. If you don’t care, that’s your prerogative. But there are plenty more that do.

    2) It really doesn’t matter what percentage of OSU’s budget comes from the state. The fact is, that under law, it’s covered as a public agency subject to open records laws. That Les Wexner gives a lot (I’m guessing not quite $590 million a year…) is completely irrelevant. So I don’t quite see your point.

  32. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 1:57 PM

    @arizcohn …

    Okay … you’re sensitive on these issues because you’re a First Amendment lawyer. xoxoemilyrae is an OSU student. I’m a jaded writer frustrated by a media that’s abandoned actual reporting in favor of tabloid titillation and doesn’t mind exploiting open-records laws to do it. But I like knowing everyone’s team biases, so what are your football loyalties? I chose Missouri for its journalism school, but I’m a diehard Bama fan. What team do you support?

    You’re arguing on the law. Publicly funded universities are subject to open-records laws, and the court will decide the merits of ESPN’s request. As you noted, the law can’t get into the business of mind-reading in deciding which media outlets are requesting info for the public good and which are requesting info to boost ratings by satisfying the public’s baser interests. It’s possible OSU can block release of the private e-mails through FERPA. But am I right in assuming you think that’s unlikely to happen?

    Obviously, I want to protect the First Amendment. But I’m equally concerned about preserving the rights of citizens not to have their jury pool poisoned before trial, not to have their phone and medical records hacked, and not to have teachers’ private discussions about them broadcast on sports networks. Can’t we draw the line somewhere?

  33. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 2:13 PM


    I root for Illinois and Stanford when it comes to college football. Trust me, I’m familiar with football-related heartbreak…

    I actually don’t know how the courts will come down in the end. The federal district court judge in Illinois said that FERPA doesn’t block FOIA releases, but it’s certain to be appealed. It’s a very interesting argument, and I actually think that there needs to be a middle ground. But I don’t have all the answers (only most of them ;)), so I can’t say what that middle ground should be. In this case, the records are emails between a school official and a non-school official about a third-party student. In cases like that, I’m likely to be a little less sympathetic to FERPA claims. If we were talking transcripts and disciplinary records, my view would probably be pretty different.

    I try not to be an absolutist in any aspects of life, but the First Amendment is probably the closest I get. There do need to be lines drawn, but I’m very cautious and hesitant about that.

    And I do actually value privacy concerns; I myself value my privacy. Which means I’m also conflicted when these issues arise in the context of fairly public individuals. Obviously this situation is nothing like an elected official who pretty much deserves to have the entirety of his actions scrutinized (to lend to a distinction I think you made above), but as prominent public sports figures, some privacy is likely to go by the wayside. Not saying it necessarily should, but that is just the reality of being in the limelight.

  34. arizcohn says: Jul 12, 2011 2:15 PM


    Also coloring my view of this is that Pryor isn’t really the primary target here. This really isn’t going to affect him much (except probably to the extent that he’s looking at the possibility of an IRS audit in the near future). The records concern him, but they are going after Tressel/the administration at OSU. I believe them to be completely fair game, so that probably has an effect on my attitude.

  35. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 4:19 PM

    @arizcohn …

    I commend you on selecting institutions for their academic reputations over their football prowess :)

    Yes, I’m with you on not restricting the First Amendment. Public figures should know they don’t have the same expectation of privacy afforded the general public. That’s why Murdoch’s antics only drew criticism when it was revealed they were hacking ordinary people. And you have no expectation of privacy while in custody unless you’re speaking to your attorney–although I still don’t believe those recordings should be released to the public prior to trial.

    If I’m being honest, my distrust of ESPN’s motives has colored my reactions here. I agree they’re not going after those e-mails because they care how Tressel and Sarniak may have discussed getting Pryor back on the straight-and-narrow. And if ESPN were going for e-mails involving Cam Newton that might shed light on any financial arrangements with Auburn, I wouldn’t say a word, so it’s hypocritical to complain when they go after OSU. Usually, I’m more objective when it comes to the legal side of things, but with Ohio State it just seems the horse has been flayed beyond reason–at least based on what’s been revealed so far.

  36. dkhhuey says: Jul 12, 2011 4:31 PM

    @Deb – Your last paragraph above is spot on. ESPN has become more of a joke than the National Enquirer and their only motive is to gain attention at the expense of OSU. I’m still waiting for the same tsunami of witch hunt journalism to start flying out of Oregon but to this point – crickets, nothing, nada, zilch, zippo… The difference in coverage between OSU and Oregon is just massive.

  37. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2011 5:58 PM

    “tmb333″, thanks for the detailed explanation. Regardless of whether or not you’re actually an attorney (don’t remember reading that if you stated you are), you’re well-informed. Just wanted to say thanks for the quick education. It’s appreciated.

  38. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2011 6:03 PM

    I find it a bit humorous that the school gets only 6% (max according to one poster) of its budget from the state yet refers to itself as THE Ohio State University. You’d think they’d rather thumb their collective noses at the state and refer to themselves as The University of Columbus (or Wexner University according to ‘xoxoemilyrae’ :) ) than acknowledge the state that doesn’t support them any better than that.

  39. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 6:06 PM

    @dkhhuey …

    Not defending ESPN on this, but in general, you won’t see the same coverage on WVU or Oregon that you’d see on OSU, USC, the Big 12, the SEC, or certain teams in the ACC. I haven’t read the first article on WVU, North Carolina, or Oregon because I don’t care. They’re “little sisters of the poor” to me. ;) (Edgy would call me a bigot for that, but it’s true.) I’m mildly curious … but with my time limited, I haven’t so far been curious enough to click.

    Being an OSU fan is like being a Bama fan and a Steeler fan. We’re walking targets. We enjoy the perks in good times, but if our programs or players screw up, we’ll have to be able to take the hits. That’s the price of supporting a storied program or franchise.

    Just console yourself with with the knowledge that most of your critics are idiots, and this too shall pass … but your storied history isn’t going anywhere. Works for me :)

  40. be4bama says: Jul 12, 2011 6:35 PM

    Three cheers for Deb. YEA YEA YEA!!! and ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!
    I love reading your comments….you go girl
    Signed: A BAMA Granny

  41. thekatman says: Jul 12, 2011 6:42 PM

    Now you OSU folks and all you other college sports fan can understand what the NCAA is all about. It goes after the successful schools that can recruit talent and teach the talent on how to be successful students and athletes; hence, why the NCAA went after USC as much as it did.

    Y’all were pretty quick to jump on the bandwagon when USC was th target, but now that the nCAA is in your backyard, you cry foul. Awwww “bless your lil heart”!

    Deal with it, move on, let the NCAA do what they do best (and that’s make up stuff if they can’t find it. See USC), otherwise, lobby your university president and the Board of Regents to do away with the NCAA.

  42. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 8:13 PM

    @be4bama …

    Thank you!!! ROLL TIDE!!!!

  43. secgreatness says: Jul 13, 2011 10:30 AM


    I hate you for making so much sense. Be carefull you might inspire a new “fad” here on CFT where adults start actually making adult like comments.

    I blame it on the heat.

  44. dkhhuey says: Jul 13, 2011 10:48 AM

    @ Deb – So true!!! When your program is always at or around the top 10 year after year, you tend to get the brightest and most intense spotlight aimed at your direction. Even in the midst of the latest sh!t storm, you just duck, take cover, and realize you’ll be back on top very soon!

  45. Deb says: Jul 13, 2011 1:23 PM

    @secgreatness … Thank you :)

    @dkhhuey …

    Yes, and I’m very glad Alabama is behaving right now because it’s all I can do to keep up with the daily antics of my beloved “adult” team … sigh. (Insert emoticon of smiley beating head against wall.)

  46. tdub821 says: Jul 13, 2011 5:30 PM

    Hey O$U fans….”Dead Man Walking”

    The long awaited NCAA hammer is coming, bring on the death penalty.

  47. xoxoemilyrae says: Jul 14, 2011 12:24 AM


    The money would have never gone to better professors/more classes anyways. And really? Have you ever heard of Ohio State? WE’RE HUGE! We have great professors and we have more class options than you could ever dream of!

    We are the #1 Public Research University in the nation. We are not hurting in the academic area. Definately no where near where not having that 1 million (which will be paid by the athletic department anyways) is going to effect academics.

    ANYWAYS, I just don’t think ESPN is entitled to these emails. And it doesn’t matter if they want the emails because they are researching Tress or whoever. Because students (Pryor and Posey, who is still a student) are in the emails FERPA comes into play. It doesn’t matter that ESPN isn’t investigating them (if thats even true), they are still IN THE EMAILS. If we would just give it to them, Pryor and Posey could sue us, the Federal Gov’t could take away ALL our funding, and we could even lose our accredidation. NOT TO MENTION how many students would not come to Ohio State for fear that their privacy would be breached.

    So if a court order says yes, then fine give it to them. But Ohio State is totally correct in not giving it to them until there is a court order.

    Finally, what Ohio Taxpayers should be outraged about is ESPN suing for legal fees. IT IS AN ACADEMIC INSTITUTION. They should be in no way, shape, or form suing for legal fees. It is disgusting to me that ESPN would do that.

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