Courtesy of MCT
Ray Small saw it all – and did most of it, too – during his four years suiting up in scarlet and gray.
Small told The Lantern on Wednesday he profited off of memorabilia while at Ohio State, adding that some student-athletes “don’t even think about (NCAA) rules.”
“I had sold my things but it was just for the money,” Small said. “At that time in college, you’re kind of struggling.”
Small, who played receiver at OSU from 2006-2010, capitalized on the Buckeyes’ success during his college career.
“We had four Big Ten rings,” he said. “There was enough to go around.”
Small said he sold the rings to cover typical costs of living.
“We have apartments, car notes,” he said. “So you got things like that and you look around and you’re like, ‘Well I got (four) of them, I can sell one or two and get some money to pay this rent.”
The wheeling and dealing didn’t stop with rings. The best deals came from car dealerships, Small said.
“It was definitely the deals on the cars. I don’t see why it’s a big deal,” said Small, who identified Jack Maxton Chevrolet as the players’ main resource.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on May 7 that OSU was investigating more than 50 transactions between OSU athletes and their families and Jack Maxton Chevrolet or Auto Direct.
Representatives for Jack Maxton Chevrolet did not return repeated requests for comment.
NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from benefiting from the sale of their merchandise. Small said he wasn’t the only one.
“They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody,” Small said, “cause everybody was doing it.”
Although he understands how athletes are easy targets for getting deals, Small said anyone can take advantage.
“(People say) ‘Oh you got a deal, it’s because you’re an athlete,'” Small said. “Playing for Ohio State definitely helps. But I know a lot of people that do nothing and get deals on their cars.”
The Lantern obtained a police report from shortly after 2 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2007, when Small was arrested for a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. According to the report, Small was driving a 2007 Chrysler 300 that he told the officer he had just purchased. The vehicle had a dealer plate on it instead of a temporary tag.
Police then received a call from Aaron Kniffin later that morning, wanting to know why the car had been impounded. Kniffin, a salesman at Jack Maxton Chevrolet, told the officer the dealership “gives a lot of coaches and faculty cars and that Mr. Small’s family is purchasing the car,” according to the report. Kniffin told the officer that paperwork for the car had not yet been worked out.
On Dec. 23, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games for selling memorabilia and receiving discounted tattoos from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Linebacker Jordan Whiting earned a one-game ban.
OSU handed coach Jim Tressel a five-game suspension and $250,000 fine for failing to report the players’ actions.
Malcolm Jenkins, who played cornerback for OSU from 2005-2008, said the tattoo violation was overblown.
“The tattoo thing is whatever. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s one of the dumb rules that the NCAA has,” Jenkins told The Lantern on Wednesday. “I don’t see what advantage getting free tattoos has to a university to be a violation, but it’s whatever. It’s in the rules, so it’s whatever.”
Small said he isn’t surprised players couldn’t resist the temptation of discounted tattoos.
“If you go in and try to get a tattoo, and somebody is like ‘Do you want 50 percent off this tattoo?’ You’re going to say, ‘Heck yeah,'” Small said.
The NCAA’s notice of allegations sent to university President E. Gordon Gee on April 21 details the infractions that the six aforementioned athletes committed. It also lists a seventh violator, noted under letter “g” in its document. The NCAA accuses that player of having repeated interaction with Rife for a year-and-a-half.
Small said he didn’t know much about Rife or Fine Line Ink.
Among the items this mystery player sold to Rife was a 2010 Rose Bowl watch for $250. However, Small, defensive end Rob Rose and running back Bo DeLande were suspended for the 2010 Rose Bowl for a “violation of team rules.”
According to athletic department spokesman Dan Wallenberg, that means Small didn’t receive a watch.
“Postseason awards are limited to student-athletes who are eligible to participate in such contests under NCAA and Big Ten Conference regulations,” Wallenberg said Wednesday in an email to The Lantern.
Rife declined The Lantern‘s request for an interview.
Small spent much of his four years at OSU in Tressel’s doghouse.
“When I was in college, in my opinion, I was the bad guy,” Small said. “I mean I knew that I was being the bad guy. I had took on that role.”
Small said the allure of deals and discounts overshadows the rules education that the athletic department’s compliance office provides.
“They explain the rules to you, but as a kid you’re not really listening to all of them rules,” Small said. “You go out and you just, people show you so much love, you don’t even think about the rules. You’re just like ‘Ah man, it’s cool.’ You take it, and next thing you know the NCAA is down your back.”
Jenkins said the athletic department makes a concerted effort to prevent such scenarios, but not all players follow instruction.
“What the players go out and do on their own time and make their own decisions is on them,” Jenkins said. “I know (the compliance department) puts things in place to give us knowledge of the rules, give us education on how to deal with those situations, but what the players do with that is another story.”
The Lantern reached out to Doug Archie, head of the OSU compliance department, but instead received a comment from Wallenberg.
“We educate as best we can and expect student-athletes and staff to follow our messaging and policies,” Wallenberg said in an email.
Jenkins said some players fail to resist the temptation of discounts.
“When I was in school, I never really encountered too many offers and stuff, and the ones I did, it wasn’t hard to say no,” Jenkins said. “But some guys who have less self-control feel like they can get away with it.”
Although six players have been penalized, Small said players mostly kept their wrongdoing under wraps.
“(It) was kind of hush-hush. I mean, you tell … probably your close friend, or a close friend to your close friend,” Small said. “As far as everybody just talking about it in the locker room, that wasn’t really a big thing. So if somebody is giving them a deal, it was probably a situation where they kept it to themselves.”
Small did not provide details
on who bought his memorabilia.
In a September interview with The Lantern, athletic director Gene Smith said outside influences are to blame for players’ misjudgments of NCAA rules.
“At the end of the day, everyone’s trying to do what’s right. There’s some things you can’t control,” Smith said. “Do we have some bad people in the business? No doubt. But 99 percent of our people are trying to do it the right way, and outside influences take them to where they are.
“It worries me constantly that our education sessions might not work, might not make it to a particular family member.”
But when speaking to the media at the announcement of the players’ suspensions on Dec. 23, Smith said the compliance department could have done more.
“We were not explicit with these young men that you cannot resell items that we give you,” Smith said. “They stated in their interviews with us and with the NCAA that they felt those items were theirs, that they owned them, that they could sell them to help their families. … We were not explicit, and that’s our responsibility to be explicit.”
Smith said the compliance department reaches out to those who might interact with athletes to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“We focus more on education, education, education. Our education is marvelous,” Smith told The Lantern in September. “We go out and meet with the car dealers, we’ll go into the bars and restaurants with cover charges and nightclubs and educate those people so they don’t give our athletes freebies.”
Former OSU basketball player Mark Titus wrote Tuesday on his blog, Club Trillion, that the perks within the football program are far from a secret.
“Any OSU student in the past five years could tell you that a lot of the football players drive nice cars,” Titus wrote. “You’d have to be blind to not notice it.”
Titus declined further comment when The Lantern contacted him, but said he has received “all sorts of hate mail. … If people are this upset with me for pointing out the obvious, I can’t imagine how mad they must be at all the guys who actually broke the rules and got OSU into this mess in the first place.”
In his four years in scarlet and gray, Small – who is back at OSU pursuing a degree in sociology – totaled 61 receptions for 659 yards and three touchdowns. He returned a fourth-quarter punt 69 yards for a touchdown to seal a 26-14 victory against Ohio University on Sept. 6, 2008. Small spent time on the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins.
OSU has until July 5 to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations. The university will present its case to the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12.
Small said players get deals just based on affiliation with the university.
“Everywhere you go, while you’re in the process of playing at Ohio State,” Small said, “you’re going to get a deal every which way.”