Ohio State officials were aware Jim Tressel had forwarded sensitive emails to quarterback Terrelle Pryor's mentor in Jeanette, Pa. during an initial March 8 press conference, a source close to the situation told CBSSports.com on Thursday.
At the time the school had only announced that Tressel had withheld information emailed to him from a local attorney about players' names popping up in an investigation of Columbus tattoo parlor owner Eddie Rife. It wasn't until 17 days later, on March 25, that the forwarded emails were revealed in a story by the Columbus Dispatch. The emails went to Ted Sarniak, a 67-year old Jeanette businessman who had mentored Pryor according to the paper. The school has said Sarniak is not considered a booster.
However, it is troubling to Ohio State, and perhaps the NCAA, that a 67-year-old glass company owner in western Pennsylvania knew about the possibly incriminating emails before the school's AD and president. Ohio State did not disclose that information publicly on March 8 because it was still in the process of informing the NCAA, said the source who did not want to be identified.
During that original press conference, Tressel was asked by Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel specifically if the coach had forwarded the emails to anyone else. Tressel seemed to answer yes but he was interrupted by AD Gene Smith who said that information was part of the investigation. It is not clear how far back that Ohio State officials knew about the additional concealment of the Sarniak information.
"Obviously, we knew everything at that point," the source said of the March 8 press conference. "We were starting to deal with the initial part of the self report. We didn't know the specifics."
|More on Ohio State|
Tressel has been suspended by the school for the first five games of the 2011 season for what seems to be a violation of NCAA bylaw 10.1 dealing with ethical conduct. Five players were suspended by the NCAA for the first five games for their roles in receiving extra benefits. The players sold championship rings, jerseys and awards. Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey, Pryor and Solomon Thomas were made to repay money gained from the sales to charity. A sixth player, Jordan Whiting, must sit out only the first game of next season.
The NCAA could accept the penalty against Tressel or add to it. NCAA director of enforcement Julie Roe Lach was asked Thursday if there was an urgency to complete the case regarding Tressel before the season because it involves his participation with the team. She would not comment on a pending case.
In addition, CBSSports.com learned that Ohio State did not lobby for the six suspended players to play in the Sugar Bowl before beginning their suspensions in 2011 beyond a simple "request" to the NCAA. The student-athlete reinstatement principle that allowed those players to participate against Arkansas has its roots in an obscure 7-year-old guideline approved by the Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet in 2004.
"We just self-reported and made the request," the source said.
In charge of the NCAA interpretation were Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs and Kenneth White, Utah State's faculty athletics representative.
The source added that Ohio State seniors preferred the suspended players participate in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeye Five, minus Whiting, all made key contributions in Ohio State's 31-26 victory.
"Those six young men played through the regular season and had the right to be in the Sugar Bowl with those guys," the source said. "They [seniors] wanted those guys to have a chance to play. Just because the NCAA had allowed them to play didn't mean that we were."