Fri Mar 25 09:57am EDT
If your Internet-addled brain still has the capacity, try to think waaaay back to March 8. That's the night Ohio State sent coach Jim Tressel in front of the press to admit to receiving personal e-mails from a local attorney alerting him to possible violations by at least two Buckeye players last April, some eight months before the university alerted the NCAA and initiated the investigation that resulted in five-game suspensions for those players last December. At the time, Tressel was asked if he'd forwarded the e-mails to anyone else, and began to answer in the affirmative — as the Columbus Dispatch recalls, he "nodded his head and said "um-hmm" — until he was headed off by athletic director Gene Smith, who quickly moved Tressel's response behind the wall of an "ongoing NCAA investigation."
A little more than two weeks later, the Dispatch has the answer through open records requests, and it's not hard to see why Smith wanted to keep it in the can: Tressel forwarded the e-mails to Ted Sarniak, specialty glassmaker and "mentor" to quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of the two players implicated by the tipster.
We, the web-going public, know three things about Ted Sarniak: a) He owns a glass factory in Jeannette, Pa., Pryor's hometown; b) He was once accused (and eventually cleared) of squirming his way out of a DUI arrest by making a donation to the Jeannette Police Department; and c) He had some kind of relationship with Pryor when he was still a hotshot recruit. Beyond that, the exact nature if that relationship is slightly murkier.
If you're a Buckeye partisan, you might describe him — as Ohio State's director of compliance did in an e-mail to the Dispatch — as "a friend" who has been thoroughly vetted by the university and "someone who Terrelle has reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career." If you happen to be, say, a Michigan fan, on the other hand, you'll no doubt recognize Sarniak as the shadowy figure who reportedly owned the Corvette Pryor was conspicuously leaning against while wearing a blinding white suit in that one photo from a few years back, taken when he was in high school.
Now we also know that this was the first guy — and likely the only guy — that Tressel alerted when he found out Pryor's name had come up in a federal investigation into a local tattoo parlor. Not his athletic director, not his president. Not the NCAA. As far as we know, maybe not even the players' families. As Tressel said on March 8, he considered the tip "confidential" information — except, apparently, for the mentor Even after eight months, after at least four opportunities to come clean to his bosses, the NCAA and the media. The first instinct was, "I'd better let Ted Sarniak know about this and keep my mouth shut"? If OSU was hoping an extended suspension and fine would sate the NCAA's appetite for vengeance after being intentionally misled by a respected head coach, its odds are growing slimmer by the headline.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.