Jim Tressel violated NCAA rules by not sharing emails that warned his players were in trouble with officials at Ohio State.
But the Buckeyes’ coach reportedly didn't keep the information all to himself.
The Columbus Dispatch reports Friday that Tressel forwarded emails from a Columbus attorney to Ted Sarniak, described as a mentor to Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The emails stated that Pryor and an Ohio State teammate had been selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor owner under federal investigation.
Tressel nodded when asked at a March 8 news conference if he had shared the emails with anyone. He didn't elaborate -- athletic director Gene Smith quickly swooped in -- because the NCAA is still investigating the case.
Ohio State didn't confirm Tressel's forwarded emails, telling The Dispatch it won't comment until the NCAA investigation is over. The school's compliance director, Doug Archie, acknowledged Pryor's relationship with Sarniak, saying the businessman from Pryor's hometown of Jeannette, Pa., was the quarterback's contact person during recruiting but isn't considered a booster.
"Mr. Sarniak and Terrelle Pryor have been friends for a number of years, and their friendship dates back prior to Terrelle's enrollment at Ohio State," Archie said in an email to The Dispatch. "As the friendship developed, Mr. Sarniak is someone who Terrelle has reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career."
Archie said the university thoroughly examined the relationship between Sarniak and Pryor before the nation's top college recruit arrived on campus as a freshman in 2008.
"The university continues to monitor the association between the two in case any concerns arise," Archie said.
Sources said that Sarniak has served as Pryor's mentor at the request of his family, and Tressel thought that Sarniak could help counsel the quarterback after Tressel realized that Pryor was among the players involved with a man under federal investigation.
This development doesn't help Tressel or Ohio State as the NCAA continues to investigate the case. It brings a new person into the equation, someone outside the program whose connection to Pryor will be closely examined (despite Ohio State's vetting). You're probably going to hear a lot more about Sarniak. Pryor's high school coach, Ray Reitz, tells The Dispatch: "Teddy has done a lot for Terrelle, and Terrelle has done a lot for Teddy."
It still amazes me that Tressel didn't share any of this with his Ohio State colleagues, seemingly trying to diffuse the problem quietly. Perhaps he really thought this would never come to light, despite knowing about the federal investigation.
Unfortunately for Tressel, this story is far from over, and the NCAA will be under pressure to hit the coach with strong penalties for his behavior.