- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has returned to campus, and a news conference has been called for Tuesday night after a report that football coach Jim Tressel was aware of potential NCAA violations involving star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and others months before the school was told.

Yahoo! Sports reported Monday that Tressel knew of allegations of improper benefits to Pryor and five other players as early as April 2010 _ at least seven months before the university found out from a U.S. Attorney.

Tressel’s contract requires that he report any _ the word “any” is underlined in the contract _ possible rules or legal infractions immediately.

“We have reported a violation, a perceived violation, that we were having discussions with them (the NCAA) about the best way to handle it,” Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee told The Associated Press while at the statehouse for the governor’s State of the State speech. “We reported that immediately when we found it.”

Gee said he could not comment further. He, Tressel and Smith all will be at a 7 p.m. news conference at the Jack Nicklaus Museum on the Ohio State campus.

Smith came back to campus Tuesday, skipping meetings with television network officials in New York about this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, to address the brewing controversy involving Tressel, who is 106-22 in his 10 years as coach of the Buckeyes. Smith is the chairman of the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball committee which selects, seeds and brackets the teams.

Smith has said the local U.S. Attorney’s office on Dec. 7 alerted the school that some of its players were selling items such as jerseys and championship rings to Edward Rife, who owns Fine Line Ink Tattoos in Columbus. Soon after, the school opened an investigation and informed the NCAA of the possible rules violations.

On Dec. 23, Pryor was suspended by the NCAA for the first five games of the 2011 season, along with starting tailback Dan “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. All the players were allowed to play in Ohio State’s 31-26 victory against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Another player was suspended for one game.

On his Twitter account, Pryor posted a message early Tuesday morning: “THE Ohio State Buckeyes face and overcome any adversity that comes our way! Brings us closer together As a team. And brings us closer 2 GOD”

Offensive lineman Michael Brewster posted the following message on Twitter: “We don’t run scared during hard times…Buckeyes Handle Adversity Together … SACREDBROTHERHOOD”

If it is proven that Tressel knew about the possible NCAA violations and did not inform Smith or the compliance office, the coach and the program could face more sanctions.

Tressel signed his most recent Ohio State contract on March 9, 2010.

Under section 4.1d of that contract, Tressel is bound to report any possible violation of Big Ten or NCAA bylaws immediately.

That portion of the contract states that the coach shall “Know, recognize and comply with all federal, state and local laws, as well as all applicable policies, rules and regulations of Ohio State, and governing athletic rules, including but not limited to, the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA …”

It later continues, in the event that the coach learns of a potential infraction, “… and immediately report to the (athletic) Director and to the Department’s Office of Compliance Services in writing if any (underlined in the contract) person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State’s athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate any such laws, policies, rules or regulations.”

Over the course of his career, Tressel has had players who caught the attention of the NCAA.

While the coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State, quarterback Ray Isaac was accused of accepting improper benefits including cars from boosters. Years later, the university admitted to the infractions and faced minor penalties.

The player who would lead Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years, tailback Maurice Clarett, also involved Tressel in some NCAA problems. After the Buckeyes completed a 14-0 season by beating Miami 31-24 in double-overtime in the 2002 season national championship game, Clarett was suspended for receiving improper benefits from Buckeyes boosters. He never played another collegiate game. Clarett also accused the university of academic fraud in its dealings with athletes’ academics.

Troy Smith, Tressel’s quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006, was suspended for the Alamo Bowl at the end of the 2004 season and for the first two games of the 2005 season for taking money from a booster.


Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS that Tressel signed his most recent Ohio State contract on March 9, 2010.)

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