It All Started with a Tattoo

By Alex Gleitman on May 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm
TP knows how to pimp his ridePictures like this now require further explanation.

2    [ta-too] Show IPA noun, plural -toos, verb, -tooed, -too·ing.
the act or practice of marking the skin with indelible patterns, pictures, legends, etc., by making punctures in it and inserting pigments.
a pattern, picture, legend, etc., so made.
–verb (used with object)
to mark (the skin) with tattoos.
to put (tattoos) on the skin.

It all started with a tattoo. A mark of the skin, performed by "artists" across the country on thousands of Americans per day. It seems so simple, but in the case of present context, this simple practice in life has become a headache none of us could ever imagine just six months ago. Some free ink started the prying open of the Ohio State jar of worms, a process that appears to have no end and becomes a nightmare each and every day with more details seeming to magically appear on the front page of newspapers and media outlets across the nation.

We all know the story by now. After a federal investigation lead the FBI to the tattoo parlor of Edward Rife, it was discovered that Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas, Boom Herron, Mike Adams, and Jordan Whiting had all either traded or sold game-worn items and memoriabilia for cash and free or discounted tattoos. A month later, it was discovered that Jim Tressel had knowledge of the players selling their items to Rife, thus proving that he knowingly played ineligible players and lied to the NCAA about reporting all violations he was aware of by not signing a waiver issued early in the fall. Both of these events not only damaged the reputations of the players and the great Jim Tressel as well as suspended the guilty subjects for the first five games of the season, but also put the program at risk of greater penalty when their fate will be decided at the official NCAA hearing in August.

We thought that was it and prayed the NCAA would come down with some mercy on JT and the school, but boy were we wrong. When an event with the magnitude of Tatgate occurs, there will also be people who want to dig further into the proverbial closets of a big time program to see what other skeletons they can funnel out. That happened this past weekend, when the Columbus Dispatch reported that the university was investigating multiple automobile purchases by dozens of current and former OSU players and their families at two local car dealerships, where the said car salesman was a tad bit shady to say the least.

Before you start with the "this happens everywhere", please stop. I don't mean to be rude to your opinion or insight, and you are right that stuff like this does happen at all big time college programs, but we're the ones who got caught this time. Not only did we get caught, but we may have been caught at the most inopportune time. Yes, technically the accused should be innocent until proven guilty and some reports claim that OSU's compliance department approved the said purchases (if so, this could be even worse), but the writing is on the wall here people and this writer certainly isn't buying that ALL of those car deals were legitimate and done at fair value.

For starter's the biggest red flag to me is that one of the car salesmen, Aaron Kniffin, was put on the ticket list to get free passes to multiple OSU games, including the 2007 National Championship and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. We all appreciate an honest car salesman (if there is one that exists) who could hook us up with a really good price on the car we want, but I don't think we'd go as far as to give him free tickets to games of those magnitude when ticket quantities are limited and everyone and their mother is begging you to get them into the stadium. The second sketchy issue to me here, is that Terrelle Pryor "test drove" a car for three days when going home for a weekend and that his mother and brother also bought cars from the dealership. Nobody test drives a car for three days, let alone three hours, and this is the same Terrelle Pryor who told Buckeye Nation he sold his memoriabilia to Ed Rife in order to help financially support his family who was in dire need of cash. How can both a mother and a brother in this same family afford cars at "book price" if TP had to go to such measures just to get them a few thousand bucks. Finally, the infamous Thad Gibson car, whose records show was signed over to the former Buckeye defensive end for $0. Gibson and the dealership claim that Thad is still paying this car off and don't know why the title shows $0, but even a five year old could tell you something shady is definitely going on here.

So what does this all mean, you ask. Are Jim Tressel and Thad Matta to blame? Is the OSU compliance department to blame? How could the Dispatch out the OSU program like that? What will happen to Ohio State now?

These are all valid questions, and some are not easy to answer. For starters, please stop again if you are blaming Matta, JT, or even the Dispatch. The coaches can't be held accountable for this. The players are fully educated in what receiving improper benefits means and what constitutes a violation. The coaches cannot be babysitters and have enough other problems to worry about, both on and off the field, to be sitting there watching every single move the players make. I think if a coach notices something a little shady, such as a player from a less fortunate background driving an expensive car or an athlete coming to the facility with a new car every other week, they should definitely report it, but once again, these are 18-22 year old kids and their families we are talking about, who know full well what is or is not a violation. If this turns out to be bad for OSU, the players and their families are the ones you need to hold accountable for these trangressions.

As for the Dispatch, I do understand the sentiment that you may be angry at them for "letting this information out". I always wondered why the Detroit Free Press wrote the articles about the players practicing too many hours at Michigan, thus getting the Wolverines in some hot water with the NCAA, but after this incident I fully understand why. As I mentioned there are many media outlets prying further into OSU's closet full of skeletons after Tatgate. This information would have come out eventually, and the writers over at the paper were just doing their jobs by reporting significant information that would have came out in a matter of weeks anyway. The more important fact here in defending the Dispatch, is that they weren't breaking the story and making people aware of these potential violations for the first time, rather just reporting that the school had launched an investigation on potential violations of multiple players across multiple sports. The compliance office was already aware of this issue and performing their due dilligence, so this was no breaking news to the school or the NCAA.

Finally, there is the compliance office. If they knew of these purchases and "approved" them and they end up becoming NCAA violations, they are certainly to blame. If that is not the case and they had no knowledge of these purchases, whether these become violations or not, you have to commend the office for doing their job and digging into this issue further. I certainly think this could have been caught earlier and it certainly may have, but would you report something like this if you didn't have to? I know I sure wouldn't, but with what is currently going on with JT and the Tat Five, Gene Smith may have ordered Doug Archie's troops to just get everything off the table at once and clear the program of all bloody hands.

It is unknown what will happen to Ohio State's program at this point. This may be prove to be just precautionary nonsense and go away, or it may linger and tie in with everything else the NCAA plans to hammer down on the school in August. Those accusations of being a repeat offender or having lack of institutional control could certainly come back into play with these new details, charges that could end up penalizing OSU worse than you ever could imagine. On top of that, the school's reputation is sure to take a big hit either way, which is a whole other beast in that recruiting will be extremely more difficult and your life as a Buckeye fan could be terribly miserable for the next five years or so.

The bottom line is that this one is sure hard to swallow. Ohio State did wrong, and in this case there is no defense for these actions. The good thing is that Buckeye pride is strong, but the bad news is that the golden era of Ohio State that we have grown accustomed to over the last six years appears to be coming to a rapid ending. As fans we will fight through this and know that the program will be back on top one day, but for now we need to prepare for the worst and the potential doom that lies ahead in the next few months.

It all started with a tattoo. A simple mark of the skin. Some free ink. Itseemed so simple at first, but this tattoo is sure leaving a permanent scar on the Ohio State program that will last an eternity.

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