Auto dealers cleared in Ohio State University scandal

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Former Ohio State football head coach Jim Tressel celebrates his school's 2007 BCS victory.

Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State football head coach amid an investigation of NCAA violations, but car dealerships have been cleared of any related wrongdoing. (Photo Credit: CC BY/avinashkunnath/Flickr)

Ohio auto dealers Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct did not participate in transactions with Ohio State University athletes that violated state law, reports The Columbus Dispatch. According to investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, no irregularities were detected in how the dealerships reported vehicle sales to Ohio State athletes and family members. The university and the NCAA plans no further investigation of the vehicle transactions.

Cleaning house after Jim Tressel

In the wake of head football coach Jim Tressel’s resignation following an NCAA investigation into several players trading signed memorabilia for cash, tattoos and marijuana at the Fine Line Link tattoo parlor in Columbus, Ohio State administration considered an independent investigation into whether athletes also received improper benefits at the automotive dealerships. However, the university decided that the Ohio BMV’s investigation was sufficient.

In total, records for 25 vehicle sales were scrutinized, and the dealerships were found to have profited on 24 of the sales. Neither the prices paid for the vehicles nor the full nature of the sale that did not produce dealer profit have been disclosed by state authorities, as the numbers are considered proprietary business information. What is known is that the lone below-cost sale occurred at Jack Maxton Chevrolet and involved a car that had been in inventory “for months,” according to the BMV report.

“We have no reason to believe any of our student athletes have received an impermissible benefit in regards to purchasing an automobile,” said Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch.

Discounting is a no-no

On average, players and family members reportedly paid $2,000 over wholesale on cars purchased via Auto Direct, according to the report. If the players paid discounted prices at Jack Maxton, sources indicate that the likelihood of there having been NCAA violations committed is high.

“Some of the vehicles were, in fact, sold below the (National Automobile Dealers Association) suggested retail price,” one investigator wrote, justifying this by adding that options, car conditions and market fluctuations can all play a significant role in final price.

Kniffin involvement sparks suspicion

The presence of Aaron Kniffin, who worked as a salesman at both Maxton and later Auto Direct, became a matter of inquiry in the case, indicates the Dispatch. In fact, Kniffin’s admission that the sale prices on the cars sold to the players were “much higher” than the amounts listed on the titles is what prompted the state vehicle authority to get involved.

Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor left the team after the NCAA discovered he has used up to six vehicles from the dealerships, and all of them traced back to Kniffin in some way. Pryor’s legal representation is now arguing that the Ohio BMV report reinforces his client’s innocence.

Replacement coach Fickell didn’t know about violations



The Columbus Dispatch

Sports Illustrated

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