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Buckeyes stand behind scrutinized coach

Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor

Jim Tressel broke the rules and is entering arguably the most embarrassing and potentially damaging chapter of his career.

Many are questioning their previously unflinching support of the man known as the Senator. His players are not among them.

“(Tressel) has all of our support,” former linebacker Ross Homan said after Ohio State’s Pro Day workout Friday. “I think every player — past, current, present … would take two bullets for that man and everything that he’s done for us.”

In an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” Christopher Cicero, a Columbus lawyer, said he sent e-mails to Tressel mentioning that Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey had connections to Eddie Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor in Columbus, who is under a federal drug trafficking investigation.

Tressel and Cicero exchanged eight e-mails about the players’ involvement with Rife from April 2 through June 6, 2010.

Cicero, a former OSU linebacker and letterman during the 1983 season, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

OSU athletic director Gene Smith declined to comment following the Buckeyes’ 68-61 win against Michigan on Saturday.

Pryor and Posey, along with Dan Herron, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting, were suspended for the start of the 2011 season for selling memorabilia to, and receiving improper benefits from, Rife.

Former defensive lineman Dexter Larimore said the team firmly supports Tressel.

“Honestly, I think the more I talk to guys in here, they’re kind of locking arms and saying, ‘Coach Tressel is our guy,'” Larimore said. “He’s definitely still my guy, that’s for sure.”

On Tuesday, OSU released the e-mail conversation between Cicero and Tressel. OSU representatives on Friday declined to confirm the names of the football players Cicero mentioned.

University spokesman Jim Lynch said OSU is required by law to censor information that is specific to individual students.

“The Federal Education Rights & Privacy Act requires us to redact any information that can lead to the identity of students, especially a student’s name,” Lynch said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “As caretaker of these documents, we still cannot reveal the student names in the document.”

Athletic department spokeswoman Shelly Poe also declined to confirm ESPN’s report, saying in an e-mail to The Lantern, “We will not have any more comments until the NCAA makes its ruling.”

OSU’s investigation of the matter resulted in Tressel being suspended for the first two games of 2011 for failing to report the possible infraction to the university after Cicero brought it to his attention. Tressel was fined $250,000 to cover the costs of OSU’s self-investigation.

“It’s disappointing that Ohio State’s in that light again,” former wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. “Anytime we’re in the media over something bad happening, everybody’s affected that’s involved in the program, everybody in Columbus. But everyone’s accepting their punishments; everyone’s saying the right things and moving on from here.”

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