BMV Report Clears Buckeyes in Car Purchases
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When all else fails, leave it to the government to fix the problems of the sports world.
OK, so maybe they don’t have the best track record but that did not stop the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles from looking into claims that Ohio State athletes received improper deals from two Columbus-area dealerships.
A report by The Columbus Dispatch alleged that as many as 25 Buckeye football players, and possibly even a few basketball players, or their family members may have received vehicles for below market rates because of their celebrity status in the community.
In a 65-page report published Tuesday, the Ohio BMV cleared Ohio State athletes of all wrongdoing after their investigation determined that certificates of titles for cars sold by Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct to players and families accurately reflected the vehicles' sales prices.
“We found no evidence in the dealers' business records that tickets and/or sports memorabilia were included in the sales,” the report said.
That was one of the main issues surrounding Ohio State players and their relationship to Edward Rife, the owner of a local tattoo parlor in Columbus. Former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates used their standing as star football players to secure cash and free tattoos in exchange for memorabilia.
Tuesday’s report rejected allegations that players were also receiving cars in exchange for something other than the true value of the vehicle. The BMV investigation concluded that Auto Direct made a profit on all 10 vehicles sold to Ohio State athletes or their family members. They also concluded that Jack Maxton made a profit on 14 of the 15 vehicles they sold, which was consistent with the statements made by salesman Aaron Kniffin in a sworn affidavit.
“The deals that I did for Ohio State student-athletes were no different than any of the other 10,000-plus deals that I've done for all my other customers,” Kniffin said back on May 10.
The Jack Maxton dealership did take a loss on one vehicle, but only because it had been on the lot for more than 150 days.
The report also found no wrongdoing in the accusations that Ohio State players and coaches were seen driving dealer-owned “loaner cars.” One of the things that ultimately pushed Terrelle Pryor out the door at Ohio State was the NCAA investigation into his use of “loaner cars.”
Pryor was pulled over multiple times during his three-year career with the Buckeyes driving different vehicles with dealer plates. Kniffin even admitted to allowing Pryor to borrow dealer-owned vehicles on multiple occasions while his car was being worked on, something the Ohio BMV says is completely within the rights of individual dealerships.
“The statute that governs the use of dealer-plated vehicles by third parties expressly permits dealers to allow any member of the public to operate dealer-owned vehicles,” the agency said in its report.
In other words, it would have to be proven that Pryor was permitted to drive these dealer-owned vehicles solely because of his status as the quarterback at Ohio State, and not because it was commonplace to allow other members of the public to do the same.
None of that will bring back Pryor, or former head coach Jim Tressel, who resigned last month under pressure from mounting allegations against his players and the program.
Ohio State officials, including President E. Gordon Gee, Athletic Director Gene Smith and athletics compliance director Doug Archie, will meet with NCAA's Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Aug. 12 to discuss the violations committed by Tressel when he was still the coach along with other allegations surrounding OSU’s football program.
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