COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State has cited privacy laws in declining to provide communications to and from coach Jim Tressel and other administrators regarding the relationship between star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his hometown mentor.
The Associated Press sought through a public records request any emails, notes or other information about the relationship between Jeannette, Pa., businessman Ted Sarniak and Pryor, who has been suspended for the first five games this fall for taking improper benefits from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner.
In an email on Friday, Ohio State's Office of Legal Affairs declined to release the records because it said doing so would mean giving up information without the student's consent.
"The university is prohibited from releasing information that can be reasonably linked to an individual," the office said in the statement.
Privacy law protects certain records of students at schools receiving federal money. It usually covers personal information such as race, religion, grades, courses taken, attendance, disciplinary and health records.
Ohio State did release other public records requested by the AP. Among them were the evaluations of athletic director Gene Smith and the school's director of NCAA compliance, Doug Archie.
The AP asked for Tressel's evaluations the past two years but Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said those are done face to face between Tressel and Smith and there are no written records.
Tressel is being investigated by the NCAA and Ohio State for knowing that his players had broken NCAA rules by accepting improper benefits. The 10-year coach of the Buckeyes learned in April 2010 that some players had sold memorabilia to the tattoo-parlor owner, Edward Rife (in related news Friday, Rife was charged in federal court with drug trafficking and money laundering). Tressel did not tell his superiors what he knew, instead forwarding an email with that information to Sarniak.
Even though compelled to tell his superiors, the NCAA or his school's compliance department about any knowledge of violations, Tressel did not surrender that information until confronted by investigators in January of 2011.
Archie was lauded two years ago for keeping the Ohio State athletic program "out of jail," according to his evaluation.
Archie got extremely high marks on evaluations even though his department was blamed at a December news conference for not fully informing athletes about the dangers of selling autographed items or memorabilia. At that news conference, Ohio State revealed that Pryor and four other players were suspended for the five games for selling or trading Big Ten championship rings, uniforms and other memorabilia for cash and tattoos.
"For this particular bylaw, we were not as explicit as we should have been," Smith said at the time. "We did not do as good a job as we should have done. In this regard, we have to do better."
Yet in his 2009 evaluation, senior associate AD Miechelle Willis gave him the highest possible grade -- "exceeds expectations" -- under "relays important information to others in a timely manner," according to the records obtained by the AP.
Archie was praised, in particular, for his job knowledge and problem solving.
"An area of strength for Doug," Willis wrote, according to the records. "Has a lot of experience in this area, knowing and understanding what it takes to keep our program 'out of jail.' "
Reflecting on those words on Friday, Lynch said, "As is abundantly clear, the context and the use of the quotation marks in this personnel review demonstrate that the comment was a colloquial way of describing Doug Archie's performance. It underlies the fact that Doug has built an excellent compliance program, and he continues to work hard -- and be effective -- in ensuring that the athletics program complies with university, Big Ten and NCAA rules and regulations."
Smith also received glowing reviews after his annual meeting with Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee.
In his most recent evaluation, in August 2010, Gee said of Smith, "You are doing an excellent job leading the department of athletics and achieving national prominence." Gee also wrote that he considered Smith "a role model for leaders."