The decision that the Ohio Supreme Court will make about a lawsuit ESPN filed against The Ohio State University could have important future legal consequences, 10 Investigates reported Tuesday.
The cable sports network wants the university to release "all e-mails, letters and memos" to and from former football coach Jim Tressel, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee and others that mentioned Pennsylvania businessman Ted Sarniak.
Sarniak was a mentor to former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor whom Pryor reached out to before he left the team in June.
The Ohio Supreme Court's decision will likely set precedent, meaning that it would shape how the university and other colleges respond to requests in the future, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.
Ohio State University has given 10 Investigates some records but in many cases it has not.
In those cases, the university told 10TV that our requests are either too broad or involve exempt
ESPN made similar requests and received similar denials, Aker reported.
The university been inundated with public records requests stemming from its ongoing NCAA investigation and the university," according to a statement released by Ohio State officials. "These include voluminous requests from ESPN, which in turn has received a voluminous amount of information. While the university often receives media requests that are overly broad, given Ohio's public record laws, we generally try to work with reporters to help them find the information they are seeking, working within the boundaries of the applicable laws."
Capital University law professor Susan Gilles, an expert on media law, said that the Ohio Supreme Court will have to decide whether the law exempts the records because of privacy. She said that the court will weigh that against the public's need to know how the university is conducting business.
"What we're talking about here is clearly public records, the only question is does that fit into one of the exceptions?" Gilles said. "Because Ohio State is a state university, it functions as part of the government and the citizens have a right to ask for the records which shows what's going on."
According to the lawsuit, ESPN asked for all e-mails involving Sarniak since March 15, 2007, that were from Tressel, Gee, Ohio State director of NCAA compliance Doug Archie and athletic director Gene Smith.
If ESPN's suit is successful, Ohio State could have to turn over the records and pay ESPN's legal fees.
Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for continuing coverage.
July 11, 2011: ESPN Sues Ohio State Over Tressel E-Mails