Not only does Ohio State have NCAA issues with which to deal, the school now has a “minor” legal issue to contend with as well.
In a complaint filed Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court, ESPN is asking the court to compel Ohio State to release emails sent/received by OSU officials relating to the scandal that has plagued the football program over the past few months. Specifically, ESPN is requesting the following in the complaint:
…a Writ of Mandamus ordering Ohio State to make available copies of all emails, letters and memos to and from Jim Tressel, Gordon Gee, Doug Archie, and/or Gene Smith with key word Sarniak since March 15, 2007, all documents and emails, letters and memos related to NCAA investigations prepared for and/or forwarded to the NCAA since 1/1/2010 related to an investigation of Jim Tressel, any and all emails or documents listing people officially barred from student-athlete pass lists (game tickets) since January 1, 2007, any report, email or other correspondence between the NCAA and Doug Archie or any other Ohio State athletic department official related to any violation (including secondary violation) of NCAA rules involving the football program, since January 1, 2005 …
The “Sarniak” the complaint refers to is Ted Sarniak, a businessman from former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor‘s hometown of Jeanette, Pa. Archie, the OSU compliance director, had previously described Sarniak as ” someone who Terrelle had reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career.”
Sarniak was also previously identified as being the lone individual to receive emails from Tressel regarding potential NCAA violations committed by a handful of his players, including Pryor. Those emails were not forwarded to anyone in a position of authority at the university and ultimately led to self-imposed sanctions for major violations as well as Tressel ultimately being compelled to step down as head coach.
In the complaint, ESPN contends that individuals employed by the company “made several written public records requests to Ohio State” regarding the the emails but were either denied based on Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerns on the part of the school; the pending NCAA investigation, for which they provided no explanation for the legal authority the denial was based upon as required by law; or “summarily denied ESPN’s requests as overbroad, without citing legal authority for that denial, or providing ESPN with the opportunity to revise the request.”
ESPN is seeking “a judgment awarding attorney’s fees and court costs associated with bringing this action.”
ESPN concluded their “Memorandum in Support of Complaint for Writ of Mandamus” by writing that “[t]he events surrounding the Ohio State football program in this past year should sadden not only football fans, but anyone concerned with collegiate sports, academic integrity and accountability. But that sadness does not mean that the events should be secret. This court should join with courts from around the country in sending an unmistakable message to collegiate athletic departments – do not attempt to cover up your misdeeds behind FERPA and honor your obligations under the PRA. And it should do so by granting ESPN’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus.”
Ohio State has yet to respond to the complaint filed by ESPN.