By Karl Henkel
Ray Isaac calls it “a big lie.”
Leslie Cochran says one of his statements was “fabricated.”
Terrelle Pryor’s lawyer calls the story “90 percent wrong.”
According to documents acquired Friday by The Vindicator, much of the information in the Sports Illustrated article detailing the Youngstown State University scandal was accurate, but the documents also revealed some more-detailed information.
The May 31 SI story detailed former YSU and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel’s career, including the player scandals that led to his resignation Monday.
The Vindicator obtained 13 of the 31 pages of a 1999 internal report that detailed an 18-month investigation by the university’s review committee. The documents from the resulting investigation were placed in the personnel file of Isaac, the quarterback who led the team to its first NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 1991.
While the confidential source of the documents speaks to their authenticity, some information apparently was redacted by the university due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act restrictions. These documents were sought by SI reporters for the magazine’s May 31 story, but they did not obtain them.
The investigation followed the March 1998 revelations in the Mickey Monus jury-tampering trial that Isaac had obtained cash and cars from then-YSU trustee Monus, in violation of NCAA rules. The investigation included testimony from Tressel, Isaac, then-athletic director Joe Malmisur, then-compliance officer Pauline Saternow, then-assistant football coach Ken Conatser and other nonuniversity employees suspected to have knowledge of what Isaac gained.
Tressel, who was interviewed twice, said in the first interview that he did not know of the summer employment relationship between YSU football players and Monus.
The jobs, through Phar-Mor — the company Monus was president of — or Tamco, allegedly were set up for football players.
Monus was later found to have provided more than $10,000 in cash and cars to Isaac, both NCAA violations; Tressel denied knowledge of that.
Monus, when contacted by The Vindicator, denied providing a car to Isaac. Monus did not participate in the YSU investigation; he was serving part of his 10-year prison sentence for his conviction of the $1.1 billion fraud and embezzlement scheme that forced Phar-Mor into bankruptcy.
Tressel, in his second interview, admitted knowing that Monus provided a weight room for players’ use at his Phar-Mor facility.
Tressel denied introducing Isaac to Monus but said he may have introduced the two as a matter of courtesy at a Youngstown Pride basketball game.
Isaac, according to the report, said he and Tressel were at a Pride game when Tressel introduced him to Monus. Isaac, in the report, said Tressel was encouraging him to study harder in order to raise his grades, and that Monus could serve as a source of encouragement for him, because Tressel considered Monus an important individual within the university and community.
The report did not say when that meeting took place.
“Coach Tressel only introduced me to Monus in passing,” Isaac told The Vindicator. “It wasn’t like it was an appointment.”
In 1994, the university first investigated the allegations involving its former quarterback dating back to 1988 and the improper benefits he received from Monus.
The 1994 investigation found no wrongdoing on YSU’s part because Malmisur and Tressel believed allegations came from a disgruntled former employee.
Malmisur in the 1994 investigation said he met informally with Tressel and Saternow but did not interview any other players, coaches, Isaac or Monus.
The full spectrum of violations were later brought to light by the Monus-Isaac jury-tampering scandal in 1998, at which point it was clear Monus provided money to Isaac. That information helped launch the 1999 report, which then led to the Feb. 16, 2000, “Public Infractions Report” from the NCAA.
The NCAA’s report criticized YSU’s original 1994 investigation, saying, “the institution failed to exercise appropriate institutional control in the conduct and administration of the football program by not taking thorough and in-depth action to investigate possible” NCAA violations.
Though violations occurred, the 1991 title was not stripped by the NCAA due to its four-year statute of limitations.
The university self-imposed a reduction in scholarships, recruiting visits and disassociated itself with Monus and Isaac.
Also in the 1999 report: Isaac’s denial that anyone else — Tressel included — knew about the money he received from Monus.
Isaac defends that notion to this day.
“Unless the money, or the receipts of the money, came out that Mickey Monus gave me money; if Ron Cole [then-Vindicator reporter and now YSU spokesman] had not alerted Youngstown State University, then I would have escaped the lie,” he told The Vindicator on Wednesday. “Jim Tressel did not know anything.”
In fact, according to the report, six of the seven (excluding Isaac) interviewed said they had no knowledge of Isaac receiving cars from Monus.
The only person who did — dealership owner George Turner — said Isaac was the only YSU player Monus provided with a car.
Saternow said she had absolutely no knowledge of Isaac’s receiving money or a car from Monus.
In the SI report, Cochran, former president of YSU, said Saternow had “misgivings” about the car.
Information in the first half of the report could not be obtained because of FERPA restrictions, but Isaac said he was interested in knowing what his teammates knew about his benefits.
According to the NCAA investigation in 2000, all former players interviewed except one said Isaac had a car during football season or heard others talking about Isaac’s car.
Isaac thinks those players’ names should be released.
“If there were people who knew that Ray Isaac had a car, don’t you think those players should come forward?” he said.
Most of all, Isaac wants to find the information in order to clear the air for what he says is a wrongdoing by SI.
“What they did to Coach Tressel was criminal,” Isaac said. “It’s highway robbery at it’s best.
“I’m very hurt for this man [Tressel]. This man put his life into us.”