Ohio State University could be in even more trouble after the Columbus Dispatch this morning reported that the school will investigate whether purchases of used cars made by Buckeye athletes violated the NCAA's improper benefits rule.
The Dispatch found in public records that at least eight Ohio State athletes and 11 athletes' relatives bought used cars from two dealers—Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct—during the past five years.
The school's investigation will center on at least 50 sales, more than two dozen of which involved the same salesman, Aaron Kniffin, who has worked at both dealerships.
"We'll take a step back, we'll take a look at the transactions and the values, and we'll make some determinations in consultation with the (Big Ten) conference office and go from there," Doug Archie, associate athletic director and head of compliance at OSU, told The Dispatch. "I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred," he said.
As the newspaper noted, NCAA rules don't prohibit athletes from shopping at the same stores, eating at the same restaurants or buying cars at the same dealerships. The rules prohibit athletes and their relatives from receiving discounts that are not offered to the general public.
In a joint interview with Archie on Friday, Jack Maxton owner Jeff Mauk and Auto Direct owner Jason Goss both said they never have given athletes special deals, though Mauk estimated that 40 to 50 Buckeyes bought cars from his dealership in the past five or six years.
This is just the latest troubling offseason issue for Ohio State. Its football program has been rocked by Tattoo-Gate, in which several football players—including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor—sold memorabilia for tattoos.
Worse, head coach Jim Tressel knew about a federal investigation of the tattoo shop owner and that the players' names had come up, but Tressel never informed his bosses at Ohio State.
The Dispatch noted that at least six major athletic programs have faced NCAA sanctions since 1990 because their athletes had free use of cars or received suspect deals on purchases: Arizona State (2005), Illinois (1990 and 2005), Minnesota (2000), Louisville (1996), Michigan State (1996), and Southern California (2010).