Sources: Ohio State was warned

Updated: June 13, 2011, 12:02 PM ET
By Tom Farrey and Justine Gubar | ESPN

This story has been corrected. Read below

Members of the Ohio State football office were warned of potential NCAA violations involving memorabilia salesman Dennis Talbott and Terrelle Pryor shortly after the quarterback's freshman year in 2009, a source told ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

Pryor and several other Buckeyes players were spotted at a private golf course near Columbus three to four times a weeks that summer with Talbott, who was a member at that time.

An earlier ESPN story had quoted club sources as saying the year in question was 2008. But on Saturday, one of those sources said he misstated the year and it was actually 2009.

It is unclear whether any of the players reimbursed Talbott for the $80- to $100-a-round guest fees. Even if they had, gaining access to the premier club through Talbott was an exclusive benefit and a possible NCAA violation, because Pryor received the extra benefits based on his sports notoriety.

A former club official, who spoke to "Outside the Lines" on the condition of anonymity, said Talbott, 40, was "kind of boastful" about being around Pryor and other star athletes.

"They seemed to be pretty close," he said.

He said he reported the situation to a friend in the Ohio State football office, as well as his boss, Regan Koivisto, general manager of the Scioto Reserve Country club. Koivisto told "Outside the Lines" he thought having a few celebrities would generate a good buzz for the club.

But, he said, he started to worry when they became frequent guests -- and when he learned that Talbott was a sports memorabilia dealer.

"I said, 'This does not smell good,' " Koivisto said."If anything bad was happening, I didn't want it to be happening on my property."

Koivisto called the Ohio State athletic department and said he spoke to then-coach Jim Tressel's secretary. He said he told the woman about his concerns regarding Talbott and Pryor playing together at the club.

"She asked, 'Can I have Coach Tressel call you?' I said, 'He can,' " Koivisto said. "Coach never did call me back. But I never saw Pryor at the club again."

No one else from Ohio State contacted Koivisto, either.

Pryor's attorney, Larry James, would not address the golf outings directly.

"These are really recycled stories. I'm just tired. I don't think it serves any purpose going back and forth because every day there is going to be new allegations," James said. "I haven't discussed them, and quite honestly won't be discussing them because they don't add anything to where he is today."

Talbott showed up at the golf club with two or three players at a time, including Pryor, during the summer months, said a club employee who wished to remain anonymous. The only other player he remembered by name was wide receiver DeVier Posey.

Officials with Ohio State said they could not comment on Posey due to federal student privacy rules.

Talbott was a member of the club from May to September 2008, when he was kicked out due to unpaid bills in the "thousands of dollars," Koivisto said.

Earlier this week, "Outside the Lines" spoke to a former friend of Pryor's who said Pryor netted anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 in 2009-10 for signing mini football helmets and other gear for Talbott. That source spoke to ESPN under the condition his face not be aired on TV and his name not be published.

On Friday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Tressel was warned about Talbott even before Pryor arrived in 2008. On March 21, 2007, Tressel allegedly received an email from a source the newspaper did not disclose that said, "He has sold over 50 items with underclassmen signatures before their eligibility expires and would seem to be someone that both you and the university is aware of. I have a full report of his eBay activities if you would like to explore further or require documentation."

Talbott twice denied to ESPN he ever paid Pryor or any other active Buckeyes athlete to sign memorabilia. He said last week he has only worked with former players to set up signings.

James, Pryor's attorney, said Wednesday the report connecting Pryor to Talbott is "fiction."

Talbott has a trail of debts to various companies stretching across several Ohio counties. Public records also show that tax liens were filed against Talbott by the federal government in 2009 for $278,000, and by the state of Ohio in 2010 for $74,000.

Tom Farrey is a reporter for Outside the Lines and Justine Gubar is a producer in ESPN's enterprise unit. ESPN Enterprise Unit reporter Paula Lavigne and ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish contributed to this report.

A June 10 ESPN Outside the Lines story on ESPN TV and ESPN.com incorrectly stated the year that former Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor had played golf at Scioto Reserve Country Club with Columbus businessman Dennis Talbott. The year was 2009.

Tom Farrey | email

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