Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel told investigators that he first notified the university's top compliance staff he had a "tip" about issues related to the team's tattoo scandal in December 2010, nearly a month earlier than the university claimed.
Multiple sources told 10 Investigates' Paul Aker that Tressel claimed he verbally disclosed the tip he received about his players' involvement with tattoo shop owner Ed Rife around Dec. 16 to compliance director Doug Archie, Julie Vannatta, Ohio State's senior assistant general counsel, and perhaps others.
10 Investigates asked Vannatta about the claim. She said that she is aware Tressel made such a statement, but that it is not true.
Tressel Feb. 8 Interview
NCAA July 21 Case Summary
VIDEOS: OSU Dec. 23 News Conference | March 8 News Conference
STORY: OSU Won't Face Failure To Monitor Charge | SPECIAL SECTION: OSU NCAA Investigation
The university has always claimed that it did not learn about what Tressel knew until Jan. 13, after discovering e-mails on the topic during an "unrelated legal matter."
Based on interviews with multiple sources who had access to transcripts of Tressel's statement during a Feb. 8 NCAA investigation, Tressel claimed to have told athletic director Gene Smith, Vannatta and Archie of his tip, Aker reported.
The revelation came during an "informal" investigative meeting held by the school following a letter the university received from the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 9. The letter alerted the university that some players had traded their Big Ten championship rings, football jerseys and gold pants, a pendant that players receive from the University for beating Michigan for tattoos.
After receiving the letter, the university immediately conducted interviews with Tressel and then with players, Aker reported. Sources familiar with the case confirmed to 10 Investigates that a player told Vannatta that during one of the meetings, Tressel discussed related issues with him in the spring of 2010. Upon learning the information, Vannatta and others spoke to Tressel again on Dec. 16.
During the meeting, Tressel claims he described the tips as coming from an attorney who was once a walk-on player. Tressel has also said he described the tip as involving the players' "social choices off field."
Tressel was disciplined and ultimately resigned for his failure to disclose his tip upon learning it in April 2010, when he received e-mails from attorney Chris Cicero.
Sources close to the university investigation said that during a February investigative interview, nobody questioned Tressel about the nature of the tip or what "social choices" meant.
"The university's filings to the NCAA; Coach Tressel's formal, written response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations on July 8; and the NCAA's own Case Summary received yesterday on July 21 all make clear that when Coach Tressel was interviewed by a number of people within the institution on December 9 and December 16, he did not share his knowledge about the NCAA violation," according to a statement released Friday by the university.
"The University categorically denies anything to the contrary, and such allegations are inconsistent with the conclusions of the NCAA and the University," the statement continued. "Any attempt to characterize events differently would be unnecessarily damaging, inaccurate and entirely misleading."
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