Lawyer says he was trying to warn Tressel
The Columbus lawyer who tipped off Ohio State coach Jim Tressel
that two of his players were involved in a federal drug trafficking
case has received death threats and now says he regrets ever
contacting the Buckeyes coach.
”I’m not the Judas in this situation. You know, I feel like
Peter, but I’m not the Judas,” attorney Christopher Cicero said in
an interview Friday with ESPN’s ”Outside The Lines” and reported
Tressel has admitted he violated NCAA rules for not disclosing
information Cicero e-mailed to him. He repeatedly refrained from
telling Ohio State’s compliance department or his superiors about
potential NCAA bylaw violations involving some of his players.
Tressel has been suspended for the first two games of the 2011
season and must pay a $250,000 fine. The NCAA could levy additional
penalties on Tressel. The coach received a resounding vote of
confidence from athletic director Gene Smith and Ohio State
President E. Gordon Gee at a news conference on Tuesday night.
In the first e-mail from Cicero, at 2:32 p.m. on April 2, 2010,
Cicero said that Ohio State players were giving autographed
Buckeyes football shirts, jerseys and footballs to a Columbus
tattoo-parlor owner who was under investigation by the U.S.
Attorney in a drug-trafficking case.
”Just passing this on to you,” Cicero wrote.
Exactly four hours later, Tressel replied: ”Thanks. I will get
on it ASAP.”
However, the coach did not tell Smith or anyone in his
compliance department until officials presented him with the
e-mails in January – more than nine months after star quarterback
Terrelle Pryor and four teammates were suspended for the first five
games of the 2011 season for selling signed jerseys and gloves
along with championship rings and trophies for money in addition to
getting discounts on tattoos.
Cicero said he had received death threats in the past few days
since his role in Tressel’s NCAA violation came to light. Yahoo!
Sports first reported on Monday that Tressel had prior knowledge of
the improper benefits involving his players.
”I wanted him to know that the kids had been hanging out with a
person who was the subject of a federal investigation,” Cicero
said when asked why he told Tressel about the players’ relationship
with Eddie Rife, the owner of the tattoo parlor. ”As a result of
that, I also heard that they had been exchanging memorabilia with
this particular person. And I outlined that in the e-mail. I threw
it out there, quite frankly, it was just to tell him (Tressel) that
that’s what it was.”
Tressel said at Tuesday’s news conference that he did not
disclose the information from Cicero because he was concerned about
preserving the confidentiality of a federal drug investigation. But
Tressel never spoke to any federal agents about the matter and
Cicero did not ask him to keep the information to himself until an
e-mail on April 16 in which Cicero said he had spoken to Rife in
his office the night before.
Cicero is a former walk-on football player at Ohio State in the
1980s when Earle Bruce was the head coach. He did not immediately
return a call from the Associated Press seeking comment.
In the same e-mail, Cicero wrote, ”These kids are selling these
items for not that much and I can’t understand how they could give
something so precious away like their trophies and rings that they
worked so hard for.”
Tressel signed an NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form – on which
indicated he had no knowledge of any possible NCAA violations – on
Sept. 13, 2010. He also did not report the information he had
received from Cicero when university officials told him on Dec. 9
that players had sold memorabilia to Rife and that the U.S.
Attorney was pursuing a case against Rife. On Dec. 16, Tressel was
asked if he had been contacted on the memorabilia matter and he
replied ”that while he received a tip about general rumors
pertaining to certain of his players, that information had not been
specific, and it pertained to their off-field choices,” the
university said in its formal letter to the NCAA regarding
During Tuesday night’s news conference, Tressel said, ”I don’t
think less of myself at this moment. I felt at the time as if I was
doing the right thing for the safety of the young people and the
Ohio State has appealed the suspensions of the five players who
are set to miss the first five games of the 2011 season. The others
are also important players for the Buckeyes: starting receiver
DeVier Posey, leading rusher Dan ”Boom” Herron, first-string
offensive lineman Mike Adams and backup defensive lineman Solomon
With Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney weighing in on behalf of
Ohio State and the five players, the NCAA permitted all five to
play in the Buckeyes’ 31-26 Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas with
their suspensions not starting until the following season.
Cicero confirmed on ESPN that the two players originally
involved in the memorabilia sale were Pryor and Posey.
It was while assembling information to appeal their suspension
that Ohio State officials discovered the e-mails between Cicero and
Tressel – and first confronted the coach.
Asked what Tressel should have done with the e-mailed
information, Cicero said, ”The heck with coach Tressel. If I had
to do it all over again at the end of the day, I’d have never sent
him the e-mail(s).”