BMV: No laws broken in Ohio St. sales

Updated: June 21, 2011, 11:53 PM ET
By Tom Farrey | ESPN.com

An investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles of two Columbus-area automobile dealerships found that no state laws were broken in the recording or pricing of some of the used car deals given to Ohio State football players and family members.

Looking at one aspect of players' access to local cars, the BMV examined 25 purchases between 2006 and 2010 at Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct, dealerships where salesman Aaron Kniffin had worked. Kniffin has said he sold about 50 cars to athletes and their relatives.

In May, the Columbus Dispatch raised questions about whether athletes had received special discounts on cars, based on their status as athletes. The BMV did not address whether any NCAA rules were broken -- that is outside the department's purview -- but in its summary report said that only one of the used cars was sold at a loss.

"The only vehicle on which Jack Maxton lost money was a car that had been in inventory for more than 150 days," the report states. "In such cases, the dealership provides incentives to its sales force to sell the vehicles, even at a loss."

In one of the attached exhibits, a BMV investigator notes that the average markup on the cars at the Maxton dealer was $1,211 and that "six vehicles sold at a negative profit."

However, that statement was not correct, BMV spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer said after the release of the report.

Asked by ESPN if the BMV could provide an unredacted version of the Maxton document, listing the dealer cost of and profit on each car sold to an Ohio State athlete or family member, Bohrer declined, citing state privacy law.

Later Tuesday, Ohio State said it is dropping its own review of the purchases by players and family members.

The investigation's report provides some relief for Ohio State, which is in the midst of an NCAA investigation into former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players receiving extra benefits. The report noted that it could not confirm that the deals players received were tied to the providing of sports memorabilia or tickets.

"We found no evidence in the dealers' business records that tickets and/or sports memorabilia were included in the sales, and the dealers and their legal counsel contend that the allegations are false," the report stated.

Ohio State documents show that Kniffin received free game tickets in 2008 from an unidentified player. But he denies that he ever gave a player a special discount on a car because of any benefits provided.

"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 in the May 10 affidavit.

The BMV investigation did not address the use of loaner cars by athletes. Pryor was provided the use of loaners by Kniffin at least three times, keeping them for days or weeks at a time. Kniffin said he let Pryor use one car, a Dodge Charger, for three weeks in early 2010 because his car was in the shop. He allegedly considered buying the others but never did.

"Today's report from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles supports the sworn statements two Columbus auto dealers provided us that the manner in which they conducted sales with Ohio State student athletes and their families adhered to university and NCAA rules," Ohio State associate athletic director for compliance Doug Archie said in a statement.

Tom Farrey is a reporter for "Outside the Lines." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Tom Farrey | email

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