COLUMBUS, Ohio – On the same day coach Jim Tressel resigned in the wake of an NCAA investigation, The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the NCAA and Ohio State are looking into whether star quarterback Terrelle Pryor received cars and other extra benefits.
Pryor, who will be a senior this fall, has already been interviewed at least once by investigators, the paper reported.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources who said this is the most significant inquiry of Pryor. The NCAA and Ohio State are also probing more than 50 car purchases by Buckeyes players, their families and friends.
He and four other players have been suspended for the first five games this fall for accepting improper benefits from a local tattoo-shop owner. Tressel knew of those benefits and did not report it to Ohio State or NCAA officials.
Tressel resigned early Monday citing NCAA violations which he said had "been a distraction" for Ohio State.
The newspaper's sources say that Pryor has been connected to at least six vehicles during his time at Ohio State.
A university spokesman declined to confirm any reports dealing with individual athletes.
The Dispatch reported in January that Pryor had been stopped three times for traffic violations over the past three years, each time driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car dealership where the salesman worked.
The salesman, Aaron Kniffin, told the newspaper that while working at a dealership in 2008, he allowed Pryor to drive his SUV to Pryor's hometown of Jeannette, Pa., and show it to his mother. Pryor did not buy the vehicle.
Kniffin also said he arranged for Pryor to use a 2009 Dodge while Pryor's car was being worked on at another dealership where Kniffin worked.
At least one of the dealerships has dozens of autographed jerseys hanging up inside its offices. Pryor said, at the time, that he doesn't remember signing his jersey that hangs in the dealership.
"I sign a lot of stuff for Buckeye fans — I don't like to turn down fans," he said. "But I don't do it to get any favors or discounts."
Investigators are also looking into Pryor's relationship with a businessman in his hometown, Ted Sarniak, who has served as his mentor. Sarniak was a prominent player in the recruitment of Pryor, considered the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit when he graduated.
Ohio State has refused an Associated Press records request seeking communications between Ohio State officials, coaches, Tressel and Sarniak, citing a federal privacy law that shields students.