The federal trial on college basketball corruption took an unexpected turn toward college football today, and Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson ended up having his name tied to an allegation relating back to his time as an assistant coach at Penn State.
Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh-area financial advisor, testified Tuesday that between 2000 and 2013, he made payments to college football players in hopes that they would work with him when they made it to the NFL, including players from Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Penn State.
According to Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel, Blazer specifically told the court that in 2009, he was encouraged by a Penn State assistant coach to pay $10,000 to Aaron Maybin – who went on to be selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft – in hopes of encouraging him to stay in school for another year. Blazer did not specifically name Johnson, but said the coach's son was an NFL player and one of his clients; Johnson, whose son Larry Johnson Jr. was a running back for Penn State and in the NFL, was the only Penn State assistant coach on staff at the time who meets that description.
Johnson Sr. adamantly denied the allegation when contacted by Wetzel on Tuesday.
"That is not accurate at all," Johnson said. "That is absolutely false. I would never, ever ask anybody to do that. That is not me."
Johnson said he was dumbfounded by the allegation, which even if true would have occurred over a decade ago and never had come up.
"Why is it that something like that comes out and nobody says anything to me?” Johnson Sr. said. “This is the first call I've gotten. All of a sudden this Marty Blazer guy can just say whatever he wants? That is absolutely amazing. Wow."
Johnson Sr., 67, did acknowledge that Blazer represented his son while in the NFL, but Blazer had no direct business ties with him.
In a statement to ESPN on Wednesday morning, Johnson described Blazer's allegation "as a complete fabrication with no proof or basis in fact."
"We will take any and all legal actions against Mr. Blazer for making such slanderous statements to protect my name and reputation, which I have worked for 40 years as a coach, mentor, husband, father and grandfather to create," Johnson's statement continued.
According to Wetzel, the allegation is "highly unlikely to attract NCAA attention, even with Johnson Sr. still coaching at Ohio State."
Johnson, who was promoted to associate head coach in January, is entering his sixth season on Ohio State's coaching staff and is the only returning assistant coach on the defensive side of the ball from last season. He was previously an assistant coach at Penn State from 1996 to 2013.