COLUMBUS, Ohio - A day after coach Jim Tressel's forced resignation for lying about Ohio State players receiving improper benefits, the focus shifted to the investigation of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his succession of used cars.
The salesman who put Pryor behind the wheel of several expensive vehicles said in a sworn affidavit released by Ohio State yesterday that he didn't offer any special deals to Buckeyes.
"The deals that I did for Ohio State student-athletes were no different than any of the other 10,000-plus deals that I've done for all my other customers," Aaron Kniffin said in the statement.
Tressel's 10-year reign as coach of the Buckeyes ended in disgrace Monday as he was forced to step down for breaking NCAA rules. He knew players received cash and tattoos for autographs, championship rings and equipment and did not tell anyone at Ohio State or the NCAA what he knew for more than 9 months. NCAA rules - and Tressel's contract - specify that he must disclose any and all information about possible violations.
Pryor, the highest profile recruit of Tressel's 25-year coaching career, is one of five Buckeyes who already have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for taking money and tattoos from local tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife, who pleaded guilty last week to federal drug trafficking and money-laundering charges.
Ohio State confirmed that the NCAA continues to look into potential violations, including Pryor's cars.
The Columbus Dispatch has reported that the NCAA and Ohio State are investigating more than 50 vehicle purchases by Buckeyes players, family members and friends. Sports Illustrated, citing a source close to the investigation, reported that Pryor, who will be a senior this fall, might have driven as many as eight cars in his 3 years in Columbus.
Even though Pryor's vehicles have been a focal point of the investigation for weeks, that doesn't mean he has been riding a bicycle around the city. Pryor drove up to a players-only team meeting on Monday night in a coal-black Nissan 350Z sports car with 30-day plates.
Pryor was stopped three times for traffic violations over the past 3 years, each time driving cars that were owned by Kniffin or a Columbus used-car dealership where he worked, the Dispatch has reported.
Late Monday night, Sports Illustrated reported that the memorabilia-for-tattoos violations actually stretched back to 2002, Tressel's second season at Ohio State, and involved at least 28 players - 22 more than the university has acknowledged. Those numbers include, beyond the suspended players, an additional nine current players as well as other former players whose alleged wrongdoing might fall within the NCAA's 4-year statute of limitations on violations.