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Of football, tattoo parlors and used car salesmen
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Forsyth County News


The Mess just gets messier at The Ohio State University.

We’ve recently discovered that sanctimonious head football coach Jim Tressel isn’t quite as saintly as his well-vested image. Just ask the NCAA.

In a notice of allegations letter to TOSU president E. Gordon Gee, the NCAA alleges that Tressel “failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics.”

That certainly doesn’t sound like someone who’s holier than thou.

Tressel abandoned ethics and common sense last April, when he learned that several of his student athletes were selling apparel, autographs, championship rings, and assorted TOSU memorabilia to a certain enterprising Columbus, Ohio, tattoo parlor owner.

Tressel promptly failed to alert any TOSU administrators to the clearly flagrant NCAA violations. He did, however, notify the mentor of his starting quarterback.

The players, the Six Salesmen, have been dutifully suspended for the first five games this fall, along with their coach. Of course, they were all cleared to participate in January’s Sugar Bowl. Apparently, more important than doing the right thing was ending TOSU’s bowl drought against SEC teams.

Well, the Bucks did beat Arkansas in New Orleans. We’ll see if the NCAA lets the tainted victory stand.

Ah, but that’s old news now, at least until August 12, when TOSU appears before the NCAA’s infractions committee. Hope that doesn’t disrupt fall practice.

In a related story broken Saturday by The Columbus Dispatch, four of the Six Salesmen also bought used cars from a local salesman by the name of Aaron Kniffen. The Dispatch discovered scores of transactions between Kniffen and TOSU student athletes and their relatives. And, it appears that some (many? all?) of those transactions might not have been totally above-board.

“I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred,” TOSU associate athletic director and head of NCAA compliance Doug Archie told The Dispatch.

Of course not. He hasn’t begun his investigation yet.

Discounts not offered to the general public but given to student athletes would constitute an NCAA violation. Of course, the owners of the two dealerships where Kniffen plied his trade denied giving student athletes any special deals. And both owners told The Dispatch that they report all transactions and particulars to Archie any time a TOSU student athlete is purchasing a vehicle.

“I’m not a car expert,” Archie told The Dispatch. “We have to rely on their integrity and their word when it comes to selling a car.”

Does anyone else smell a rat here?

Kniffen and Jason Goss, one dealership owner, both attended TOSU football games as guests of players, including the 2007 BCS championship game and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

Kniffen told The Dispatch he sold cars to four dozen student athletes and their relatives, and that TOSU compliance staff directed them to him. However, Archie told The Dispatch that he has not directed players to any dealerships.

Good luck, Diogenes, if you’re ever in Columbus.

Here’s one transaction uncovered by The Dispatch: in 2009, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson purchased a 2007 Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles. The public records show the purchase price as $0.00.

This came as news to Gibson, who told The Dispatch, “I paid for the car, and I’m still paying for it.”

The owner of the dealership, Jeff Mauk, told The Dispatch, “I don’t give cars for free.”

Kniffen shed light on the deal to The Dispatch. “The sales price is much more than that. You are so far away from what the transactions are all about.”

Now, that’s interesting. Ohio law, like that of all states, makes it criminal activity to submit false information on car sales for tax purposes.

The Dispatch began looking into Kniffen’s sales connections with TOSU when his name appeared on a player’s guest list for three games in 2007. In 2008, in a rare instant of enlightenment, TOSU barred him from the guest list as someone doing business with the players.

At the least, based upon The Dispatch’s investigative report, it appears that TOSU shall have the NCAA compliance staff sniffing around once more. And at a most inopportune time indeed.

And, if memory serves, didn’t the notorious Maurice Clarett have some issues with a borrowed car shortly after Tressel won his only national championship?

Seems like the more we learn about the pious Mr. Tressel, the less there is.