In a 2008 NCAA investigation, the NCAA cleared the mentor of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor of allegations that he improperly acted as a booster while helping the player pick a college.
According to a letter written by NCAA’s Amy Huchthausen, the NCAA staff could not find that the benefits mentor Ted Sarniak provided to Pryor did not constitute a violation.
While there was no violation, the NCAA did require Sarniak to change his relationship with Pryor.
“Mr. Sarniak may continue his relationship with Pryor and his family,” Ohio State NCAA compliance director Doug Archie wrote to Sarniak on Sept. 5, 2008. “However, since the relationship does not meet the NCAA’s definition of a ‘pre-existing relationship,’ NCAA rules require that the relationship must change.”
Just three years after NCAA rendered him free of wrongdoing, Sarniak played a key role in the Ohio State scandal that emerged this past summer.
Coach Jim Tressel tried to keep Sarniak in the loop as much as possible. When Tressel received an email alleging Pryor and other players received improper benefits from a tattoo-parlor, Tressel immediately forwarded it to Sarniak.
Asked why he thought first of Sarniak, he told NCAA investigators, “I felt from a safety standpoint that I needed to alert Ted to the gravity of that,” since Pryor was one of the players involved.
“He appeared to me to be the only one that would tell (Pryor) the right things for the right reasons,” Tressel said in the transcript of that interview, released last week. “He didn’t wanna just be, you know, hanging onto (Pryor), you know, like a groupie.”
Tressel said in the interview that occasionally Sarniak would contact him to give special attention to Pryor.
“Ted might call, you know, maybe twice in the last three years, saying, ‘Maybe you need to give him (Pryor) a little hug,’” Tressel said.
When it is all said and done, the small decision to forward that email to Sarniak played a major role in Tressel’s resignation on May 30.