Ohio State Football Scandal (Part 2 of 5): Cars, Lies and Ray Small

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIJune 2, 2011

Pryor and the rest of the current Buckeyes involved in this scandal may not take the field again in an Ohio State uniform.
Pryor and the rest of the current Buckeyes involved in this scandal may not take the field again in an Ohio State uniform.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Everyday the NCAA’s investigation of the Ohio State University’s football program continues, the more major violations the Buckeyes become accused of. 

Early Monday morning, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel resigned amid these allegations, but that was not the only bad news for the Buckeyes this week. 

Around the same time Tressel’s resignation was made public, the NCAA opened an investigation on the Buckeyes star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. A source close to Ohio State’s and the NCAA’s investigation of 50 cars sold to Ohio State football players and their families told Sports Illustrated, “(Pryor) might have driven as many as eight cars in his three years in Columbus."

We will return to Pryor in a few minutes, but for now, we will examine how these alleged car deals came into the national limelight. 

The 50 cars were purchased at two different car dealerships in Columbus, and one of them is in hot water with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Aaron Kniffin, a used car salesman at Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct, which is the other dealership under investigation, is also being investigated by the BMV. Kniffin was the salesman for nearly all of the cars purchased by the Buckeyes. 

Rumors began to swirl about Ohio State players receiving deals on used cars in March. The Columbus Dispatch found sales documents for a Chrysler 300C purchased by former Buckeye defensive end Thaddeus Gibson. The sale price was listed as $0. Soon after the report came out, Gibson said he was still making payments on the car. 

Just one day later, The Dispatch found new paper word documenting that the car was sold to Gibson by Kniffin for $13,700 instead of $0.

This most likely means Kniffin, who sold the car to Gibson, wanted Gibson to avoid paying sales tax on the car. This is a violation of NCAA rules and federal tax laws, which has prompted the BMV’s investigation.

Additionally, The Dispatch reported that Kniffin and Jason Goss, who owns the Auto Direct dealership, received game passes from Buckeye athletes. The two attended the 2007 BCS National Championship Game and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl as guests of Buckeye players.

The NCAA’s investigation of the cars began to intensify after former Buckeye wide receiver Ray Small, who played at Ohio State from 2006 to 2010, spoke with The Lantern in May about possible violations during his time in uniform.

“It was definitely the deals on the cars,” Small said. “I don’t see why it’s a big deal.”

Small also went on to say his teammates referred him to Kniffin at Jack Maxton Chevrolet. 

Along with his allegations about the car deals, Small also told The Lantern he sold one of his Big Ten Championship rings along with other memorabilia while at Ohio State, “I had sold my things, but it was just for money,” Small said. 

Small went on to tell The Lantern he wasn’t the only Buckeye partaking in the violation of NCAA rules. “They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody,” Small said, “cause everybody was doing it. Everywhere you go, while you’re in the process of playing at Ohio State you’re going to get a deal every which way.”

Shortly after the article was published, Small began to come under fire from both current and former Buckeye players. Small backtracked and accused the authors of the article, Ohio State students James Oldham and Zack Meisel, of misquoting him and twisting his words.

The two student reporters called his bluff and released the audio recording of their interview, which revealed that Small said exactly what was written. I guess Ray thought he could outsmart a couple of Buckeye student reporters, but it did not work out so well for him. Small has not commented since the recording was released.

Now, as promised, we will return to Pryor’s recent troubles with cars and disgruntled teammates. 

Pryor was last spotted driving a tricked out Nissan 350Z, which has a book value of anywhere between $16,000 and $27,000. The car appeared to still have dealer plates instead of temporary tags. Pryor drove the car to a team meeting Monday and the team’s workouts on Wednesday. 

Early Thursday morning, Pryor’s mother spoke to WBNS-TV10 in Columbus and released the bill of sale for her son’s new car. The Dispatch reported the Nissan was purchased at Auto Direct a week ago and that Pryor’s mother has agreed to make a monthly payment of $298.35 for the next 51 months.

So, Pryor’s eighth car checks out, but he may run into some problems with the other seven rides he has had while in Columbus. One of which was a “loaner” car Pryor was given by Kniffin for three days so that he could drive home to Pennsylvania. 

Pryor has also been connected to a 2009 Dodge Challenger, which he drove with dealer plates from late-March through mid-April.

According to the WBNS-TV website, “Records showed Pryor has gotten three traffic tickets in that past several years, and on two occasions, the cars’ license plates tracked back to Auto Direct.”

Pryor and his mother were interviewed by NCAA investigators Thursday afternoon as well. The NCAA has not released a statement regarding what was said in those interviews.

This entire situation revolving around Pryor has many of his teammates upset and angry with the star quarterback. One Buckeye told Joe Schad, “I haven’t spoken to Terelle and I don’t plan to.”

Former Buckeye linebacker Chris Spielman also uncovered some other reasons for the current Buckeyes’ frustrations with Pryor. “I’ve heard through players, former players, TP (Terrelle Pryor) operated and was allowed to operate by his own set of rules,” Spielman said. “Being late to meetings. Being late to practice. Not showing up to workouts.” 

With all of this being said, along with the current investigation of Pryor and his “loaner” cars, I think he played his last snap at Ohio State in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Ironically, it will likely end the same way everything did in January, with Pryor apologizing to “Buckeye Nation,” along with selling the rest of his championship memorabilia for a strength and conditioning coach to prepare him for the NFL’s Supplemental Draft in July. 

All of this proves Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith’s original comments about his program’s problem not being systemic were blatantly false. If “Buckeye Nation” thought the suspensions of the “Tattooed Five” were harsh, they are in for a rude awakening in the coming months. 

This will undoubtedly be considered a “lack of institutional control” by the NCAA because of the length of time all of this has been going on. I personally feel the death penalty is warranted in this case due to the number of major violations that appear to have been committed.

Look for part three of this article, which will be published tomorrow afternoon and will detail the past NCAA troubles of the now former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. Also check out this article, part one of this series that was published yesterday, and a video report at my blog, Dirlam’s Dirty Dugout Sports Blog.