Former Ohio State football player Terrelle Pryor during a news conference June 14, 2011.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Terrelle Pryor’s lawyer wanted Ohio State to make it clear to the NFL that his client could not return to the Buckeyes. So Ohio State not only declared its former star quarterback would not have played at any time during the 2011 season but also banned him from any contact with the school’s athletic program for the next five years.
In a letter from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith dated Tuesday, Smith said that Pryor was ineligible because he failed to cooperate with NCAA and Ohio State investigators. He then added, “The university must also dissociate you from its athletic program for a period of five years.”
That means that Pryor can have no contact with recruits or enrolled Buckeyes, cannot accept complimentary tickets to home games and cannot use the team’s athletic facilities.
Smith didn’t rule out the use of all campus facilities, however.
“Please note that this dissociation does NOT prohibit you from enrolling in classes at the university to complete your degree,” Smith wrote. “As you know, I would encourage you to complete your degree.”
There had been whispers that the NFL might not offer Pryor a spot in a potential supplemental draft in the waning days of this lockout-shortened summer because he had only been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for accepting improper benefits from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. Pryor was at the center of an ongoing series of controversies that led to coach Jim Tressel’s forced resignation on May 30.
The NFL’s rules state a supplemental draft is open to “any player who is ineligible.” Since Pryor still could have played the second half of the 2011 season, there was still a question whether he could have regained his eligibility and played.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has not decided anything about a prospective supplemental draft, nor has it considered the status of Pryor.
“We have not set a date for the supplemental draft nor made any determinations on the eligibility of individual players,” Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press.
Pryor’s Columbus lawyer, Larry James, said he sought the letter from Smith to rule out any chance of Pryor playing again in college, although that seemed extremely unlikely since he has hired agent Drew Rosenhaus and has been working out in Florida for the past several weeks.
“When you don’t cooperate (with the NCAA) it’s the death knell,” James said Tuesday. “Once you sign with an agent, once you fail to work with the NCAA, you’re ineligible.”
In other words, there’s no turning back for Pryor, the nation’s top quarterback recruit from Jeanette, Pa., who had success on the field but helped bring a lengthy NCAA investigation upon one of the nation’s premier football powerhouses. After the NCAA began looking into players who traded signed memorabilia, trophies and championship rings to the tattoo-parlor owner, it led to five players — including Pryor — being suspended for the first five games this fall. (A sixth player was subsequently suspended.)
The university later learned that Tressel had known his players had accepted cash and tattoos for more than nine months but contrary to his contract and NCAA rules did not tell Smith, the NCAA or Ohio State’s compliance department. That led to Tressel being forced to resign on May 30.
Ohio State goes before the NCAA’s committee on infractions on Aug. 12 in Indianapolis. The school has vacated the 2010 season, including its victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and has self-imposed a two-year NCAA probation. The infractions committee could accept those penalties or it could hand out stiffer sanctions, including bowl bans and recruiting limitations.
James said the letter from Smith was necessary to make it clear to the NFL that Pryor is out of options — other than a supplemental draft.
“I don’t think anybody on this planet who’s paying attention to this thought Terrelle was attempting to game the system” by leaving school early for the NFL, James said.
Smith’s letter was also emailed to the NCAA, Ohio State athletic administration officials, lawyers, the university’s ticket manager, interim coach Luke Fickell and all other Buckeyes coaches in all sports.