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

on ESPN.com.

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

Tressel’s violation.

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

overall situation.”

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

Thomas.

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).”