Posted by Adam Jacobi
Earlier this month, the world learned of Aaron Kniffin, the car salesman who allegedly sold cars to dozens of former and current Ohio State football players. Kniffin, if you'll recall, told reporters that the Ohio State compliance department directed its players to him on a routine basis, and that it reviewed the sales before they were made final. That doesn't sound terrible in and of itself, but those transactions are currently under investigation by the school and independent investigators, looking for any improper sales that may run afoul of NCAA regulations.
Interestingly, the Ohio State director of compliance, Doug Archie, denied Kniffin's account of events and said he had only talked to Kniffin once, that his office never reviews sales documents, and that his office never refers players to certain car dealerships.
Kniffin is not backing down from his claims, however. In an interview with the Sporting News published this afternoon, Kniffin puts the number of times he's talked to Archie a little higher than "one"; let's try "well over 50," in fact:
“Doug Archie has called me well over 50 times,” Kniffin said. “This year alone, I’ve talked to him 25-30 times. You can print out your Verizon (phone) bills; his numbers are right there calling me.”
When asked why Archie, who did not immediately respond to voice mail messages, said he only spoke to Kniffin once and denied that the deals were approved by OSU compliance, Kniffin said, “That’s something you’ll have to ask him. I’ve got records of it.”
Kniffin says he also has a copy of an affidavit he signed for Archie detailing the sales process, and stating no NCAA violations occurred during the process. That affidavit, Kniffin says, was sent to him by Archie four days after the May 7 story appeared in The Dispatch outlining potential NCAA violations.
Kniffin says the Ohio State compliance department—“either Doug Archie or Chris (Rogers)”—approved every co-signer on every loan, and knew every person associated with the deals.
Now, Kniffin is not alleging that any impropriety occurred, so it's not as if he's trying to bring down Ohio State or is clearly satisfying some sort of ulterior motive. Archie also stated earlier that he has "no reason to believe a violation has occurred," so it appears at this point that this investigation is more due diligence than anything else.
The fact that Archie appears to be misrepresenting his relationship with Kniffin is absolutely troubling, though. It's the behavior of someone with something to hide, and the NCAA usually doesn't care much for people who hide information from it. Of course, Archie made his statements to the Columbus Dispatch and not NCAA officials, but if what Kniffin is describing is true -- that Archie's compliance department checked out Kniffin's dealerships and made sure everything was on the up and up, why on earth wouldn't Archie make that known? If there are no violations, after all, then Kniffin's story makes Ohio State's compliance department look orders of magnitude more competent than how Archie characterizes it.
Still, it must be reiterated that Archie had better hope like crazy that the investigation definitively uncovers no wrongdoing, because the alternative is an absolute nightmare for Ohio State. If Kniffin's allegations that Ohio State funneled athletes to these dealerships are correct -- and generally, the first person to offer to produce a paper trail is telling the truth -- and if there are untoward deals being made, then this is a situation where a NCAA member's compliance department is directing its athletes to break NCAA compliance rules, and that would be an outright sham. Still a lot of ifs in that situation... for now.