Looking at What Ohio State Must Give ESPN
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s athletics department won a major victory in the courtroom Tuesday, but it wasn’t a total victory.
The Ohio Supreme Court voted unanimously that ESPN’s lawsuit against the Ohio State University was “largely without merit,” ruling the University complied with the vast majority of its obligations under R.C. 149.43 in responding to ESPN’s records requests.
The Court cited the Ohio district court’s 1989 ruling in the case of Wallace v. State Medical Board of Ohio.
“The Public Records Act serves a laudable purpose by ensuring
that governmental functions are not conducted behind a shroud of secrecy.
“However, even in a society where an open government is considered essential to maintaining a properly functioning democracy, not every iota of information is subject to public scrutiny. Certain safeguards are necessary.”
According to the Ohio Supreme Court, for the most part, Ohio State established that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), along with attorney-client privilege, prohibited the disclosure of the requested records.
It was a landmark victory for Ohio State, which does not have to release emails between Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee, Athletic Director Gene Smith and former head coach Jim Tressel.
ESPN had hoped to obtain an email chain under the title “Sarniak,” — as in Ted Sarniak, a Pennsylvania businessman and the mentor of former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor — but the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader won’t go home empty-handed.
While the Court decided the majority of ESPN’s lawsuit lacked proper merit, it did issue a limited writ of mandamus ordering Ohio State University to provide several documents related to the 2011 NCAA investigation.
Here is a look at those documents:
*Ohio State must provide ESPN with an e-mail chain between Jim Tressel, the Ohio State athletics department official in charge of compliance (Doug Archie), attorneys, and other officials scheduling a meeting to formulate a compliance plan for one of the student-athletes.
*Aside from the name of the student-athlete and a person who agreed to attend the meeting, no personally identifiable information is included concerning any other student-athlete.
*Another document refers to one person’s request to obtain a disability-insurance policy on behalf of a student-athlete. With those names redacted, the document would not contain personally identifiable information.
*There are also two letters from Ohio State’s athletics department compliance director to the parents of a student-athlete concerning preferential treatment.
*With the personally identifiable information concerning the names of the student- athlete, parents, parents’ addresses, and the other person involved redacted, FERPA would not protect the remainder of these records.
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