Lawyer says he's received death threats

Updated: March 13, 2011, 1:02 PM ET
By John Barr | ESPN

The Columbus lawyer who sent e-mails to Ohio State coach Jim Tressel last April about players selling memorabilia said he gave Tressel the names of two players -- starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and receiver DeVier Posey -- in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

Christopher Cicero, a walk-on player for the Buckeyes in the early 1980s, said in his first interview that it has been a stressful time since his name and e-mails to Tressel were revealed.

A fan of the Buckeyes' program, Cicero said he doesn't want to be considered the "Judas" in the controversy, and added he has received some death threats in the past few days.

Tressel did not turn over the names to the university or to the NCAA after he received the first e-mail from Cicero April 2, 2010. On Tuesday, Ohio State officials announced that they will suspend Tressel for the first two games this upcoming season and fine him $250,000.

The NCAA is investigating and could levy further sanctions against Tressel and the program. Six players have been suspended for games next season, including Pryor and Posey, who are among five players who will miss five games. One player will miss one game.

Cicero also said he doesn't know of any other possible NCAA violations by Ohio State players, other than selling memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor owner who has been under a federal drug investigation. Tressel has said he didn't report the e-mails from Cicero because he considered them to be "confidential."

Cicero said when he asked Tressel to keep the e-mails confidential, he meant that he would not go to the media or the public, not that Tressel couldn't inform the school or launch his own investigation.

"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 signed an NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form -- on which indicated he had no knowledge of any possible NCAA violations -- on Sept. 13, 2010.

According to a self-report letter sent from Ohio State to the NCAA on Tuesday, Tressel -- when confronted Dec. 16, 2010, about the sale of the memorabilia, told university officials he'd heard only "general rumors" about the players' involvement and that he'd received a "tip" related to the allegations. According to the same letter, Tressel told university officials he could not recall the source of the "tip."

"Outside the Lines" has learned from a source close to the investigation that Ohio State officials only became aware of the e-mail exchanges between Tressel and Cicero on Jan. 13, 2011, when university employees were conducting a search of internal communications relating to the expansion of the Big Ten. That search was being conducted as part of a separate public records request, the source said.

Only when confronted with information that university officials were aware of the presence of the e-mails between Tressel and Cicero did Tressel admit to having received them, according to the source.

Cicero lettered in football at Ohio State in 1983. Tressel was an assistant coach under Earle Bruce at the time Cicero was a walk-on linebacker.

In a statement released Wednesday, Cicero said he voluntarily cooperated when an Ohio State attorney asked him to meet with university representatives and the NCAA about e-mails he exchanged with Tressel.

In April 2010, Tressel received an e-mail from Cicero telling him that two of his players were caught up in a federal drug-trafficking case and the sale of memorabilia, breaking NCAA rules.

Tressel responded: "I will get on it ASAP." But he never mentioned it to Ohio State's compliance department or his athletic director for more than nine months.

John Barr is a reporter in ESPN's enterprise unit. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

John Barr | email

Reporter ESPN Enterprise Unit

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