Ohio State has received some more bad news this Saturday morning as the school has announced they have opened an investigation on used-car purchases by former Buckeye football players. This is a big deal since Ohio State is already in hot water with head coach Jim Tressel lying to the NCAA about what and when he knew about the Buckeye five who traded memorabilia for free or discounted tattoos.
Back on Apr. 25, Ohio State was handed down a 'notice of allegations' from the NCAA because they accused Tressel of dishonesty for hiding violations by seven current and former players who sold awards and equipment to a tattoo-parlor owner. They did not get the label of 'lack of institutional control' that was slapped on Boise State, but now with the addition of the Buckeyes looking into former players receiving deal because they are Ohio State players may force the NCAA to add the LOIC on the Buckeyes if any wrong doings are found.
The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that eight former Buckeyes and 11 relatives bought cars from Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct during the past five years. The investigation will examine at least 50 sales, focusing on whether the athletes received improper benefits.
The head of Ohio State's compliance department Doug Archie spoke with the Dispatch about some of the details:
In a joint interview with Archie yesterday, Jack Maxton owner Jeff Mauk and Auto Direct owner Jason Goss both said they never have given athletes special deals.
Mauk estimated that 40 to 50 Buckeyes bought cars from his dealership in the past five or six years .
Archie said that he was aware of all the transactions involving the athletes that The Dispatch found, but he was unaware of purchases made by their relatives.
Both dealers, whose businesses are not connected, say they routinely call Archie's office when an athlete is ready to buy a car, provide the purchase price and discuss who will co-sign on a loan. Archie said he relies on the car dealers to provide accurate information.
I would not expect that Archie would need to be aware of Buckeye relatives purchasing cars, but to me it seems a bit peculiar that 11 relatives bought cars from these dealerships. Just seems odd.
The biggest red flag comes from Thaddus Gibson who received and amazing deal of zero dollars for a car:
Public records show that in 2009, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles was titled to then-sophomore linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. Documents show the purchase price as $0.
Mauk could not explain it. "I don't give cars for free," he said. Gibson said he was unaware the title on his car showed zero as the sales price. "I paid for the car, and I'm still paying for it," he said, declining to answer further questions.
There is one link between the two dealerships and that is former employe Aaron Kniffin who was involved in selling many cars to Ohio State players, and that is who Ohio State is looking into because having so many Ohio State players deal with one dealer is a cause for concern.
If that Kniffin name sounds familiar he is the car salesman that allowed Terrell Pryor an extended test drive of a 2004 GMC Denali to his hometown in Pennsylvania which is over 200 miles from Columbus so that his family could look at the car Pryor was considering buying. For the record he did not buy the car. Then there are those three traffic violations that Pryor encountered, and in two of those instances the SUV he was driving was registered to Kniffin.
Kniffin says Pryor had the loaner cars because Pryor's vehicle is in the shop, and loaning out cars is standard to all patrons.
Kniffin (who claims he's not a Buckeye fan) was removed from the players' pass list in 2008 because of an OSU rule prohibiting athletes from giving tickets to people they do business with. Prior to that, he and his boss, Auto Direct owner Jason Goss, attended seven football games as guests of players, including the 2008 BCS Championship Game and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
Receiving those passes can make it seem that Kniffin as well as one of his former bosses could have been giving preferential treatment to Ohio State players, but that is speculation on my part.
This also could cause more trouble for Jim Tressel since former Buckeye Maurice Clarett told ESPN the Magazine that back in 2004 Tressel arranged loaner cars for Clarett. Plus, there is another former Buckeye under Tressel's tenure in Marco Cooper who said he was able to get loaner cars in exchange for signed memorabilia.
So far there have been no findings of any wrongdoing by any of these Ohio State players, and it could have just been the car dealer doing some adjustment to sales figures to avoid sales tax. If the dealership did that then they are in some serious trouble.
It does seem that every program is up to something that is at least worth looking into, and if there anything that the NCAA finds as improper benefits is that when they get labeled with lack of institutional control.