Chronology of Ohio State scandal
April 2, 2010
2:32 p.m.: Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel receives an email from Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero, the first of 12 they exchange. Cicero, a former Ohio State walk-on player in the 1980s, says he has been told current Buckeyes players have been selling signed memorabilia to tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife, who is under federal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office. In three postscripts, Cicero also mentions Rife’s criminal history and that Rife was being investigated for drug trafficking. Tressel does not tell athletic director Gene Smith, any of his superiors, the school’s compliance department or legal department or the NCAA about the information. But he does forward it to Ted Sarniak, a 67-year-old businessman in Jeannette, Pa., who is quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s “mentor,” with a note saying, “[Cicero] has always looked out for us.”
April 2, 2010
6:32 p.m.: Tressel replies to Cicero, “Thanks. I will get on it ASAP .... jt”
April 16, 2010
9:43 a.m.: Cicero emails Tressel again, providing additional details about the OSU players’ activities, including some information gleaned from a 90-minute conversation he had with Rife. Cicero says nine Big Ten championship rings, 15 pairs of cleats, four or five jerseys and one national championship ring have been offered for cash or trade by players -- “for not that much.” Cicero writes, “What I tell you is confidential.” Prior to that, during a two-week period, no secrecy had been requested.
April 16, 2010
11:20 a.m.: Tressel replies, “I hear you!! It is unbelievable!! Thanks for your help....keep me posted as to what I need to do if anything. I will keep pounding these kids hoping they grow up ....jt”
April 16, 2010
2:24 p.m.: Cicero replies, suggesting that the players not be allowed to go to Rife’s house or his tattoo parlor nor to call him on his cell phone “because if he gets arrested, and that seems to be the plan, we dont want their phone numbers in his cell phone that the government will trace. He really is a drug dealer.” He emphasizes the severity of the federal case against Rife.
June 6, 2010
9:15 p.m.: After they trade several more emails, Tressel thanks Cicero. They exchange no more emails.
Sept. 13, 2010
Tressel signs an annual NCAA certificate of compliance form indicating he knows of no violations and has reported to the school any knowledge of possible violations.
Dec. 7, 2010
The U.S. attorney’s office notifies Ohio State officials that it had discovered some Ohio State memorabilia during a raid on Rife’s home and/or the tattoo parlor and asks if the items were stolen. A day later, the athletic department is informed. The list of dozens of items released later estimates the value at $12,000 to $15,000.
Dec. 9, 2010
Tressel says publicly this is the first time he hears about his players’ involvement with Rife, when told by school officials. He makes no mention of his email exchanges with Cicero or Sarniak or any knowledge he has of the matter.
Dec. 16, 2010
OSU interviews the six players found to be involved with Rife (Pryor, tailback Daniel Herron, Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and defensive back Jordan Whiting). Smith later thanks the players for their conduct in these interviews, “because they were honest [and] forthright.”
Dec. 19, 2010
OSU turns in a self-report to the NCAA and declares the six players ineligible.
Dec. 22, 2010
The NCAA notifies Ohio State of five-game suspensions for five players and one game for Whiting. All must also pay to charity the equivalent of the money and services they received. In a twist, however, the NCAA allows the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4, 2011; their suspensions begin with the 2011 season.
Dec. 23, 2010
Smith and Tressel hold a news conference to announce the sanctions. Tressel says the players must have known what they were doing was a violation of NCAA rules: “We all have a little sensor within us, ‘Well, I’m not sure if I should be doing this.’ ”
Jan. 13, 2011
While reviewing information “on an unrelated legal issue,” Ohio State’s office of legal affairs finds Tressel’s email exchanges with Cicero.
Jan. 16, 2011
Presented with the emails, Tressel acknowledges that he had received the information from Cicero and had known about the players’ activities with Rife, who will later plead guilty to federal drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges.
Feb. 8, 2011
NCAA and school officials interview Tressel. Tressel for the first time acknowledges he knows he committed an NCAA violation. NCAA lawyer: “You were aware that violations regarding student-athletes had either occurred or likely occurred?” Tressel: “Mm-hmm.” NCAA lawyer: “Is that correct?” Tressel: “Yes.” NCAA lawyer: “And you did not report that those violations to anyone in athletics or compliance or the NCAA. Is that correct?” Tressel: “Correct.”
March 7, 2011
Yahoo! Sports publishes a story in which a source says that Tressel had knowledge of his players’ potential NCAA violations as early as April and did not disclose it. Smith has his staff rush to finish the self-report.
March 8, 2011
Ohio State reports Tressel’s violation to the NCAA and calls a news conference to announce it has suspended Tressel for two games (later increased to five games to coincide with the players’ punishment) and has fined him $250,000. In the letter to the NCAA, Ohio State says, “The institution is very surprised and disappointed in Coach Tressel’s lack of action in this matter.” At the news conference, university President E. Gordon Gee and Smith lavish praise on Tressel. Asked if he considered firing Tressel, Gee jokes, “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
May 30, 2011
Ohio State announces Tressel has resigned as head football coach. Assistant Luke Fickell, already tabbed to coach the team during Tressel’s suspension, will be interim coach for the 2011 season. The search for a new permanent head coach will begin following the season.
June 7, 2011
Pryor says he’s leaving Ohio State a year early to jump to the NFL “in the best interests of my teammates.” He is later taken in a supplemental draft by the Oakland Raiders.
July 8, 2011
Ohio State responds to the NCAA’s allegations of violations by offering to vacate the 12-1 season in 2010 and go on two years of NCAA probation.
Aug. 9, 2011
Associated Press research determines that Tressel received $21.7 million in his 10 years from Ohio State. Almost a quarter of his pay -- $4.6 million -- came via a contract with apparel and shoe manufacturer Nike.
Aug. 10, 2011
The AP reports that the NCAA investigations have cost Ohio State more than $800,000 so far.
Aug. 12, 2011
Ohio State appears before the NCAA’s committee on infractions. Smith says the school will not keep $339,000 in bowl money from 2010.
Nov. 26, 2011
Ohio State loses to rival Michigan 40-34 to complete a 6-6 regular season. The Buckeyes later accept a bid to the Gator Bowl to play Florida on Jan. 2.
Nov. 28, 2011
After weeks of rumors that he had already bought a house in Columbus, former Florida coach Urban Meyer is announced as Ohio State’s new head coach. He says he will retain Fickell on his staff.