Home » News » Breaking it down: ‘Tattoo-Gate’ scandal costs Ohio State almost $8M

Breaking it down: ‘Tattoo-Gate’ scandal costs Ohio State almost $8M

I was just like every other sports journalist in Columbus last year. Standing outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, home of the Ohio State Football team, looking for stories, evidence and quotes.

About this time last year, Jim Tressel had just been forced out of his head coaching position, Luke Fickell was being introduced as interim coach and photographers and piles of public records requests were trying to figure out the legitimacy of former quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s car.

I wrote about the emails, I wrote about the cars, I reported about the “deals” Ray Small claimed to get, I wrote about the cover-up and I wrote about the seriousness of the situation: about the black eye that will cost the Athletic Department for years to come.

But then I got to thinking, everyone understands what the cost of this “Tattoo-5” scandal had on the reputation of the university. I stood on the sidelines of every away game last season and heard fans from other teams yell things about tattoos, cars and one fan not-so-politely asked me where Pryor was. I watched ESPN constantly update its sidebar with more mistakes at OSU.

The reputation has made a recovery. With coach Urban Meyer at the wheel and all the players involved in the NCAA investigation either graduated, drafted or departed from the university, the OSU football program is returning to normalcy.

But I got to thinking. These five players received tattoos, money, deals on cars and maybe a free meal from time to time. A small amount of money that probably will cost the university a lot more than they could even imagine.

So after months of reporting and researching, I have come to a conclusion. A tangible number that illustrates the actual cost to the university for the mistakes of a couple of football players and their head coach.

$7,793,757.13

While Tressel, Pryor, former running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, former wide receiver DeVier Posey, and former linemen Solomon Thomas and Mike Adams are not totally responsible for every penny, the result of the scandal and ensuing costs to the university and athletic department are connected to the scandal in a major way.

Let me explain.

Urban hire – $1,119,000

Tressel was a Buckeye. He loved his team, and they loved him. Many fans wore his signature vest to every home game and away game; sometimes out to parties on a Thursday night. His presence was intimidating and his legacy will remain with every fan.

It is safe to say Tressel was going to be around for a long time had the scandal not happened. It would be fair to assume he would have filled the remainder of his contract had Edward Rife not hooked up Pryor and company with some free tattoos.

So there is a base number consistent with Tressel’s projected salary that can be compared to Meyer’s projected salary during that same period.

Meyer was the hottest commodity on the college football market at the time. He had taken a year off for health reasons, and decided only to come back to the coaching world because of the opening at OSU.

“If it was but for the coaching position at The Ohio State University, I would not have coached this coming year,” Meyer said at his introductory press conference.

With this blockbuster-esque acquisition, comes a Hollywood-type price tag. Athletic director Gene Smith even said, “Meyer is without a doubt one of the premier leaders in football.”

And with that, comes a cost.

Tressel was due to make $3,777,000 each year for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons, fulfilling his contract that had been extended in 2010.

Meyer’s contract is an even $4 million a year for six years. He gets a retention bonus after the completion of every two-year period. So in the first three years, the years Tressel would have been on contract, Meyer would make $12,450,000 through the 2014 season.

Tressel would have made $11,331,000. A difference of $1,119,000.

New staff – $3,788,643

When Meyer was introduced as coach of the Buckeyes, Smith made it apparent he was going to be spending money to try to bring in the best coaching staff in the country.

“We’ll put in place the resources necessary to attract the staff that Urban feels he needs,” Smith said.

OSU is not known for spending large sums of money on its assistant coaches. Smith had previously said he wouldn’t participate in a bidding war to land top assistant coaches, the kind many SEC schools engage in.

During Meyer’s introductory press conference, Smith made clear that mentality was changing. When asked what had changed, Smith said, “age and maturity and competition.”

And that staff consists of Everett Withers, Luke Fickell, Tom Herman, Ed Warinner, Kerry Coombs, Stan Drayton, Tim Hinton, Zach Smith, Mike Vrabel, Mickey Marotti, Mark Pantoni and Brian Voltolini.

Tressel’s 2010 coaching staff was Jim Heacock, Jim Bollman, Fickell, Paul Haynes, Darrell Hazell, Taver Johnson, John Peterson, Nick Siciliano, Dick Tressel, Eric Lichter and Troy Sutton. And without speculating what could have changed, we’ll just use the last available salary for all these coaches.

The co-defensive coordinators, Fickell and Withers, will make $750,000 and $450,000 respectively. Heacock, the defensive coordinator in 2011, made $350,000. A difference of $850,000.

New offensive coordinators Herman and Warinner will make $420,000 and $350,000 in 2012 respectively, which is $420,000 more than their predecessor, Bollman.

Adding up Haynes, Hazell, Johnson, Peterson, Siciliano, Lichter, Sutton and Dick Tressel’s last available salary – and Fickell’s 2010 salary – you get $1,877,119 per year.

Adding up Coombs, Drayton, Hinton, Zach Smith, Vrabel, Marotti, Pantoni and Voltolini 2012 salaries, you get $1,870,000 per year.

A difference of $1,262,881 per year across all assistant coaches.

Assuming sans-scandal staff turnover would have been minimal, the additional cost of assistant coaches for the period remaining on Jim Tressel’s contract – through the 2015 season – is $3,788,643.

Attorney costs for players – $230,980.06

When news broke of the compliance issues in December 2010, and continuing issues persisted through November 2011, the university sought legal representation for the players involved in the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal.

Jim Lynch, university spokesman, said the university hired two firms for these players. Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease and Crabbe, Brown & James.

“NCAA rules allow the university to secure legal representation for student-athletes when their eligibility is in question,” Lynch told The Lantern.

The university paid $29,499.85 to Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, and paid $201,480.21 to Crabbe, Brown & James.

NCAA investigation consulting – $1,408,184.07

Again, when news of the scandal broke in December 2010, the university sought the assistance of three firms shortly after to assist in compliance, legal affairs and communications.

The university hired The Compliance Group, based in Lenexa, Kan., “provides an array of quality and cost-effective compliance services to intercollegiate athletics departments and conference offices.”

The total cost of hiring The Compliance Group was $282,840.27.

“(The university) sought the counsel of The Compliance Group, who has strong expertise in NCAA compliance issues. The company has worked closely with the university since January 2011,” Lynch said.

The university also hired Kekst and Company, based in New York, which is “a leading strategic, corporate and financial communications firm.”

“Given the nature of this issue, the university sought communications counsel to assist in its efforts to manage ongoing communications on this matter. The company has worked with the university since mid-March (2011),” Lynch said.

The total cost of hiring Kekst and Company was $617,415.92.

And finally, the university hired FTI Consulting, Inc., a worldwide consulting firm that defines itself as a “global business advisory firm that provides multidisciplinary solutions to complex challenges and opportunities.”

“FTI, which is experienced in complex investigations, served as a consultant to the Office of Legal Affairs concerning the NCAA investigation,” Lynch said.

The total cost of hiring FTI Consulting, Inc., was $507,927.88.

Between these three firms, the total comes to $1,408,184.07.

Compliance revamp – $506,950

Because all violations and cover ups committed are a failure in the athletic compliance department, the Board of Trustees are creating the Office of University Compliance and Integrity.

While the office has not yet been created, the Board of Trustees spent months on an internal review, advising and research totaling $506,950.

The Audit and Compliance Committee hired two outside consultants for a review of the compliance of the university. The committee hired Protiviti, a business-consulting firm from Menlo Park, Calif., for $226,950, according to the Office of Business and Finance.

The committee also hired a New York-based law firm, Dewey and LeBoeuf. Leslie Flesch, associate vice president in the Office of Business and Finance said payment is expected to be $280,000.

Audit and Compliance Committee chairman Robert Schottenstein said in a July 2011 meeting this was an opportunity to improve on all levels of compliance.

“This process, which we fully embrace as an opportunity to get better, was actually triggered by the problems in our football program that first surfaced late (2010),” Schottenstein said.

President E. Gordon Gee said the athletic compliance issues were the most public, but the athletic compliance is a small part of university compliance.

“The compliance in athletics is more public perception. If you spend a certain amount of your budget on athletics and it gets 90 percent of the airtime. So it’s a perception that you want to get that right. … The notion of having a centralized compliance system is that we have a filter that is constantly looking at our overall compliance,” Gee told The Lantern on Feb. 6.
Although the need for the OUCI was in response to a public failure in athletic compliance involving the scandal, the office will deal with university-wide compliance issues.

Geoff Chatas, the university’s chief financial officer, said the original plan was to hire one consulting firm for the project, but upon further review, the decision was made to hire two firms.

“It became quite clear when we looked at the task at hand – which is looking at the organization of compliance, the process of compliance and then the legal process around compliance – that we needed two areas of expertise,” Chatas said at a September Board of Trustees meeting.

This again, is just the cost of consulting for the OUCI, and additional costs will surface when the office is created.

Sugar Bowl vacated and future bowl vacated – about $740,000

Because of the scandal, OSU forfeited its share of the Big Ten’s payment for playing in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

OSU vacated the entire 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl. Meaning the $388,811 that comes with participation in the Sugar Bowl is gone.

Gene Smith announced the decision to vacate that money after an August 2011 meeting with the NCAA.

The money was later donated to charity.

As part of the NCAA sanctions announced in December 2011, OSU will be disqualified from postseason play after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season.

This bowl ban will also forfeit any chance OSU has at making the Big Ten’s distribution of Bowl money next season. A rough average of the share OSU would receive is about $350,000. So for the purpose of estimating here, the total bowl money lost will be about $740,000.

Again, the future bowl money is an estimate.

Wrapping up

This list is not an all-inclusive list of costs resulting from the scandal.

There was a $250,000 fine the university gave to Jim Tressel, but later waived that and paid him a June 2011 salary of $52,250. Jim Tressel’s last day as coach was May 31, 2011. That $52,250 is not included because it was part of his salary.

There are unknown costs associated with fulfilling an unbelievable amount of public records request. There is a cost associated with the university’s legal battle with ESPN about public records. There are costs of travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA investigation. And there are many more costs that are either part of everyday operation or that cannot be pinned down to only the scandal.

It should be noted that the athletic department is self-sustained and that no student dollars are a part of any of these costs. But at the same time, this is money that realistically the athletic department does not have anymore, or will not earn.

When I was standing on the sideline of the Illinois football game in Champaign, I looked up to the crowd and saw a simple, relatively uncreative sign that said in big bold letters, “O$U.”

Well, to that Illinois fan, here you go.

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