NCAA Says Ohio State Football Coach Tressel Covered Up Player Violations

Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel withheld information from school officials that his players sold championship rings and apparel at a local tattoo parlor, college sports’ governing body said.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association notified Ohio State yesterday that it wouldn’t be cited for a lack of institutional control -- the NCAA’s most serious breach -- because Tressel kept information from school administrators for more than nine months.

Ohio State said in a statement on its website that the allegations are consistent with what it reported to the NCAA in March. The school said it would have no further comment until the NCAA’s review is complete.

Tressel, who coached Ohio State to a national title in 2002, was previously suspended by the school for the first five games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000.

There was no indication from the NCAA or Ohio State whether further penalties might result from the case. The school has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s request for additional information. The NCAA committee on infractions meets Aug. 12 in Indianapolis.

The NCAA said that between November 2008 and May 2010, football players sold university-issued sports awards, apparel and equipment to Edward Rife, the owner of a tattoo parlor in Columbus, Ohio, the school’s home.

The merchandise included 2008 Big Ten Conference championship rings, a 2008 national championship game jersey, a pair of pants and pair of shoes, and a 2010 Rose Bowl watch.

Preferential Treatment

The NCAA said Tressel “knew or should have known” that at least two football players received preferential treatment and sold the awards, clothing and equipment.

It said the coach “failed to report the information to athletics administrators and, as a result, permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition while ineligible.”

The letter said Tressel failed to “deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics.”

It said Tressel received e-mail notification that the athletes sold the awards, apparel and equipment, and withheld the knowledge until the school discovered the e-mails in January 2011.

The NCAA also said that in September 2010, Tressel falsely attested that he reported all knowledge of NCAA violations to the school as part of a certification-of-compliance form.

Tressel received an e-mail in April 2010 from Columbus lawyer Christopher Cicero, saying that a federal agency had raided Rife’s tattoo shop and discovered autographed apparel, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Federal Probe

Tressel didn’t notify anyone at the school. Instead, he contacted a mentor of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was later identified as one of the players involved in the scandal, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Attorney’s office contacted the school about the memorabilia its officers found at the parlor, prompting an investigation by the school that never led to the e-mails proving Tressel’s knowledge, AP said.

Pryor and five other players were given five-game suspensions beginning with the first game of the 2011 season.

When the school appealed the players’ punishment, it discovered the e-mails to Tressel, who was then suspended and fined. Tressel has a 106-22 record at Ohio State.

The Dispatch reported that the NCAA “warned that it could treat Ohio State as a repeat offender stemming from the violations involving former quarterback Troy Smith, who took $500 from a booster, and former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien, who gave $6,000 to a recruit.”

The newspaper said repeat offenders face postseason bans, loss of scholarships and suspensions of entire coaching staffs under NCAA rules.

To contact the reporter on this story: Curtis Eichelberger in Washington at ceichelberge@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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