Posted by Adam Jacobi
Terrelle Pryor announced today through his lawyer that he would not be returning to Ohio State for his senior season after all. If that sounds like an odd thing to announce through a lawyer, well, it is. The situation in Columbus is obviously dour, however, and since Pryor has been reported to be at the center of that maelstrom, the last thing he needs to be doing is drawing attention to himself.
Unfortunately for Pryor, his announcement was shortly followed by multiple reports that he had received tens of thousands of dollars for things like memorabilia and autographs, which is an egregious violation of the NCAA's amateurism clause. Here's more from an ESPN report:
Terrelle Pryor [...] made thousands of dollars autographing memorabilia in 2009-10, a former friend who says he witnessed the transactions has told "Outside the Lines."
The signings for cash, which would be a violation of NCAA rules, occurred a minimum of 35 to 40 times, netting Pryor anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 that year, the former friend says.
He said Pryor was paid $500 to $1,000 each time he signed mini football helmets and other gear for a Columbus businessman and freelance photographer, Dennis Talbott. Talbott twice denied to ESPN that he ever paid Pryor or any other active Buckeye athlete to sign memorabilia. He said last week he has only worked with former players to set up signings. On Tuesday evening, he declined to comment whether he had ever operated a sports memorabilia business and said he was not an Ohio State booster.
The unnamed friend goes on to describe various lavish purchases Pryor made, which ESPN independently confirmed. The friend also details the arrangement Talbott had with Pryor, and it basically sounds like Talbott was a clearinghouse for Pryor to make money off his autographs. Again, obviously, that's completely illegal in the NCAA.
This would sound like an unverifiable hatchet job by a former friend if his story weren't apparently corroborated by Sports By Brooks, which provides evidence that Talbott has been selling Pryor-autographed material (along with other sports memorabilia) on eBay. Additionally, SBB reports that the NCAA has recently discovered checks from Talbott to Pryor, though that report is unconfirmed.
Brooks notes, however, that OSU asked Talbott to disassociate himself completely from the football program during the 2010 season, which could be a very troubling development. If Ohio State's athletic department uncovered evidence that Pryor had been accepting money from Talbott -- precisely the type of thing that would necessitate such a disassociation -- then let Pryor play anyway, then that is a serious violation of NCAA rules. In other words, it would be another instance of a possible sham of a compliance department. And if that's the case, all of a sudden, the heat's not only on Jim Tressel anymore, and the possibility for massive punishment increases dramatically.
Of course, just as with the car dealership issue, there are still plenty of ifs between here and "sham compliance department," and the investigations are still ongoing, so there's no need to shovel dirt on Ohio State just yet. These are still dark days in Columbus, however, and president Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith must be hoping there's no bad news left. The way this situation has unfolded already, though, that's far from a guarantee.