Email warned Tressel of Talbott in 2007

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It was a series of emails starting in April of 2010 that ultimately led to the downfall of Jim Tressel and could lead to significant sanctions placed on the Ohio State football program.

Unbelievably, there’s yet another bit of electronic mail sent three years earlier that has surfaced and could give The Association an additional punitive bullet to place in their chamber ahead of an August hearing.

Continuing a dogged spate of investigative reporting by Doug Lesmerises, the Cleveland Plain Dealer beat writer reported Friday evening that on at least two occasions Tressel or someone in the athletic department were warned about an individual named Dennis Talbott.  Talbott, if you recall, is the Columbus freelance photographer/memorabilia purveyor who was accused in an ESPN Outside the Lines piece earlier this week of giving former quarterback Terrelle Pryor $20,000-$40,000 in a one-year period in exchange for his signature on memorabilia.

The first warning, Lesmerises reports, occurred in March of 2007, over a year prior to Pryor’s arrival in Columbus.  And, it came in the form of an email missive directly to Tressel — to the same email address Chris Cicero sent the April 2010 emails — warning the then-head coach of Talbott’s dealing with underclassmen in the football program.

The Plain Dealer obtained the email sent on March 27, 2007, to tressel.3@osu.edu and posted the content of the message regarding Talbott to the coach:

He has sold over 50 items with underclassmen signatures before their eligibility expires and would seem to be someone that both you and the university is aware of. I have a full report of his eBay activities if you would like to explore further or require documentation.”

It’s unclear if there was a response from Tressel to the unnamed sender of the email because, as the paper writes, “the school does not retain email records that are more than three years old.”

In previous reports, the just-as-dogged website SportsByBrooks.com reported that Talbott had extensive ties to not only Pryor but several members of the football program by way of his memorabilia business or businesses.

In addition to the email warning in 2007, the OSU athletic department was warned again in the summer of 2009 by two employees of a Columbus-area country club, of which Talbott was a member.

Two employees of Scioto Reserve Golf Club contacted members of the athletic department after seeing Talbott and Pryor golfing together. One employee said he talked to an Ohio State assistant coach he knew socially, and was told the matter would be taken care of. Another employee, Regan Koivisto, the club’s general manager, said he called the football office and detailed his concerns while talking to an administrative assistant.

“I just thought it would be best if the coaching staff was aware, because I’m certain they always had their players’ best interests in mind and would want to know,” Koivisto told The Plain Dealer.

ESPN.com had also reported earlier today that Talbott and Pryor golfed together on multiple occasions at the Scioto country club in the summer of 2008, before Pryor had even played a down for the Buckeyes.  Koivisto, the club’s general manager, reiterated to the paper that the golf involving Pryor occurred in 2009 and not 2008 as ESPN.com had reported.

However, there is a discrepancy involving Koivisto that remains.  The club manager told the Plain Dealer that, when he spoke to the administrative assistant — reportedly Tressel’s secretary — he was asked if he wanted the coach to call him back; the paper wrote that “he felt that was unnecessary because he’d provided all the information he knew.”

Koivisto, however, gave a significantly different version to ESPN.com.

“She asked, ‘Can I have Coach Tressel call you?’ I said, ‘He can,’ ” Koivisto was quoted as saying on the ESPN website. “Coach never did call me back. But I never saw Pryor at the club again.”

Regardless, Talbott has denied paying for any of the football players who had golfed with him.  He has also vehemently denied paying any type of money to Pryor, period.

After being warned about the potential issues involving Talbott and players in March of 2007 and the summer of 2009, Talbott remained a credentialed sideline photographer for OSU football games during the 2009 season.  In 2010, and after Tressel first learned through emails that there were likely impermissible benefits involving Pryor as well as others, Talbott was not a credentialed photographer.  Talbott claimed that he decided against applying for a credential last year as he wanted to attend the games as a fan.

It remains to be seen what if any impact this latest in a long line of developments has on the NCAA’s investigation or the school’s appearance in front of the Committee on Infractions Aug. 12.  However, if Tressel or the school were aware of a potential issue involving Talbott and did not act on them for what appears to be a period of at least a couple of years?

Much like Tressel’s initial cover-up and lies, we’re guessing the NCAA would not appreciate it in the least.  And the NCAA’s sanctions will ultimately show exactly that.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”