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ESPN Files Lawsuit Against Ohio State University

ESPN has filed a lawsuit against Ohio State University, claiming the school violated Ohio’s public record laws.

OSU allegedly failed to make three different sets of public records available earlier this year during the Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor investigations, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“One set of records involves e-mails, letters and memos from Tressel, OSU President Gordon Gee, OSU director of sports compliance officer Doug Archie and Athletics Director Gene Smith related to Pennsylvania businessman Ted Sarniak that ESPN requested on April 20.

On May 27, OSU declined to provide those e-mails claiming they were prohibited from doing so by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), according to ESPN’s lawsuit.

Sarniak, a businessman who has been described as a mentor for Pryor, was the person who Tressel forwarded e-mails to that the coach had received about certain OSU football players, including Pryor, being connected with a Columbus tattoo parlor owner, Eddie Rife. Those e-mails, which were sent by Columbus attorney Chris Cicero, told Tressel that Rife was the subject of a federal law enforcement investigation and that the players had exchanged signed OSU memorabilia in exchange for tattoos.

Tressel did not forward the e-mails to his superiors at OSU or to the NCAA, a decision which ultimately lead to his ouster under pressure from Ohio State officials. Meanwhile, Pryor decided to leave OSU and apply for the NFL’s supplementary draft after Tressel was shown the door.

In the lawsuit, ESPN says that OSU is “aggressive and misguided” and “equal parts cynical and hypocritical” for claiming they are prohibited by FERPA from releasing the communications that concern Sarniak. Noting that Sarniak is neither a parent or guardian of any player on the team, the lawsuit states that OSU hasn’t indicated the records would discuss grades, financial aid or other items covered by FERPA.”

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