Pryor’s attorney questions Sports Illustrated story

Published 1:15 am Friday, June 3, 2011

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — The lawyer for Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has questioned the facts in a Sports Illustrated special report on the Buckeyes’ NCAA problems, saying the story is “90-percent wrong.”

Columbus attorney Larry James also said there is nothing out of the ordinary about the cars Pryor has driven or purchased.

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“I think there’s a misperception about Terrelle, there’s a misperception about the overall program as brought about in part by the Sports Illustrated article that everybody’s just taken to the bank,” James said Thursday.

In a lengthy cover story in this week’s Sports Illustrated, released on Monday just hours after coach Jim Tressel’s forced resignation, investigative reporter George Dohrmann writes that there was a country-club atmosphere at a local tattoo shop for Buckeyes players and that at least 28 of them are either known or alleged to have traded or sold memorabilia in violation of NCAA rules.

Ohio State has suspended five players — including Pryor — for the first five games this fall, with another player suspended for one game.

“Obviously, if you know these other kids that are in this Sports Illustrated article, if you spent any time around them, you know that that story is 90-percent wrong on those kids,” James said.

Scott Novak, a spokesman for Sports Illustrated, said, “We stand by our reporting.”

James said his firm had represented five of the players who have been suspended for accepting improper benefits from tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife.

Asked again if he were saying the SI story was factually wrong, James said, “Factually, about the other kids, you will find in due time.”

James said he didn’t know if the players might have legal recourse against the magazine and hadn’t looked at it because, “You’ve got to get through the first crisis first.”

That crisis is the NCAA’s investigation into improper benefits to Buckeyes players, and Tressel’s knowledge of and a coverup of those violations. Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch says the university is cooperating with the NCAA in an open investigation of the football program.

Among the areas the NCAA is looking into is the cars driven by Pryor over the past three years, The Columbus Dispatch has reported.

James would not say whether Pryor and his mother, Thomasina Pryor of Jeannette, Pa., have been interviewed by the NCAA yet.

Asked if he was representing the Pryors in NCAA matters, James said, “I hate to comment on that, as you know all those matters are confidential. But if you were to make that assumption you would not be incorrect.”

James provided the purchase agreement for the 2007 Nissan 350Z with more than 80,000 miles that Terrelle Pryor has been driving to workouts this week. Pryor’s mother signed for the car, which cost $18,401.56. The Pryors traded in a Dodge Charger valued at $7,253, lowering the cost to $11,435.06 with the addition of all taxes, fees and ancillary charges.

James said Pryor’s car situation has been blown out of proportion.

“Over that time period, he may have had three or four loaner cars, period,” he said. “So you take the three cars that the mom purchased over that time period, and the loaner cars, and this is how the story gets turned into a tornado.”

Officials at the Ohio Department of Public Safety said Wednesday that Pryor’s driving privileges in the state had been suspended because he failed to produce proof of insurance when pulled over for a stop-sign violation on Feb. 19.

But James said Thursday that was not the case and that Pryor has always been insured.

“He’s always had insurance. He had insurance during this time period,” he said. “It’s my understanding that his license has been reinstated since he has shown proof. And I have a copy of the insurance policy in place at the time of the stop.”