Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his mother, Thomasina, have been interviewed in Columbus, Ohio, by an NCAA investigator about his use of loaner vehicles, a source close to the situation said Thursday.
An attorney for Pryor, Larry James of Columbus, said that Pryor has on occasion in the past three years utilized "three or four loaner vehicles" from the same dealer, Auto Direct Columbus, Inc. -- not up to eight, as has been reported.
James also questioned a report in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated on the Buckeyes' NCAA problems, saying the story is
"90 percent wrong."
"I think there's a misperception about Terrelle, there's a misperception about the overall program as brought about in part by
the Sports Illustrated article that everybody's just taken to the bank," James said Thursday.
The Sports Illustrated report described a country-club atmosphere at a local tattoo shop for Buckeyes players and that at least 28 of them are either known or
alleged to have traded or sold memorabilia in violation of NCAA rules.
Ohio State has suspended five players -- including Pryor -- for
the first five games this fall, with another player suspended for
one game. Jim Tressel was forced to resign as coach Monday.
"Obviously, if you know these other kids that are in this
Sports Illustrated article, if you spent any time around them, you
know that that story is 90 percent wrong on those kids," James
Scott Novak, a spokesman for Sports Illustrated, said, "We
stand by our reporting."
James said that Pryor's mother purchased two vehicles for Pryor while he was a high school athlete in Pennsylvania, and that both vehicles ran into trouble, including a Hyundai Sonata that "died," and a Dodge Charger that "ran into problems" in Columbus and needed an engine overhaul.
James said Pryor's mother then purchased her own vehicle from a Columbus car dealership on "word of mouth."
Said James: "It was basically a deal where friends who had gone to the dealer say, 'This guy can be helpful to you.' It wasn't about a special deal. It was just that everyone knew to go there. If I'm a businessman and I can create a feeder system for athletes and parents to where people know to go there, what's wrong with that?"
James said that within the past 10 days, Pryor's mother purchased a 2007 Nissan 350Z sports car with about 80,000 miles on it for her son from Auto Direct.
James said the vehicle was financed for "about $11,000" and that the payments are about the same as those she had been making on the Charger.
James said that Pryor needed the use of loaners because of servicing.
"It's a customer-friendly service," he said.
James said neither Pryor nor his mother had paid for the loaners.
"Now, does the public get the same deal? I have not done an audit on that," James said. "What I can tell you is the owner of that dealership will tell you that (Pryor) gets treated like every Tom, Dick and Harry."
If Pryor received benefits deemed not available to the general public or deemed as preferential treatment, the NCAA could extend the five-game suspension the quarterback received at the end of last year, which he will serve at the start of this season, for extra benefits received from a tattoo-parlor owner in Columbus.
Ohio State's compliance department monitors the vehicles purchased by athletes. But James said that as for the loaners, "I don't think Ohio State had to sign off on that. It's not necessary for loaners."
James said he could not comment on the NCAA's interest in the relationship between Pryor and mentor Ted Sarniak, a Pennsylvania businessman. But he did say he believes Pryor's actions are not unusual.
"I've done law for 30 years and when you look at the facts -- three or four vehicles and a use of loaners when a car is in the shop for repair, you will find this is nothing out of the ordinary," he said.
James said Thursday that Pryor has had his driving privileges in Ohio reinstated. Officials at the Ohio Department of Public Safety said Wednesday that Pryor's driving privileges had been suspended for 90 days because he failed to produce proof of insurance when pulled over for a stop-sign violation Feb. 19 in Columbus.
James said Pryor had since shown proof he had insurance. James said he had a copy of the insurance policy that was in place at the time of the stop.
Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.