In the midst of an ongoing NCAA investigation involving Ohio State's football program and coach Jim Tressel, business as usual might be the best way to describe what's going on inside recruiting circles.
On Tuesday, the Buckeyes reeled in a big fish when Upper Arlington (Columbus, Ohio) wide receiver
made a verbal commitment to be a part of their 2012 recruiting class. That came just four days after the NCAA sent OSU President E. Gordon Gee a "notice of allegations" accusing Tressel of lying to investigators when he failed to disclose that a tipster had told him some of his players had been given free tattoos in exchange for signed memorabilia.
"My parents went there and my sister went there, and on top of that, they've got one of the best coaching staffs in the country," said Epitropoulos, who chose Ohio State over Michigan State, Stanford and Wisconsin. "(The situation with Tressel) made me pause, but I know coach Tressel. It was a lot harder of a decision than I thought, but I couldn't pass up Ohio State."
Epitropoulos became the sixth member of the 2012 recruiting class for the Buckeyes, joining Joshua Perry
from Olentangy (Lewis Center, Ohio), Warren Ball
from St. Francis DeSales (Columbus, Ohio), Kyle Kalis
from St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), Brionte Dunn
from GlenOak (Canton, Ohio) and Jacoby Boren
from Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio).See who signed with Ohio State from the Class of 2011
In the days after first getting an e-mail regarding the tattoos-for-memorabilia exchange last April, Tressel kept the information and subsequent updates from university officials even as he frequently contacted others about alleged violations by current and former players, according to reports in the Columbus Dispatch. That failure to reveal the potential violations led the NCAA to accuse Tressel of dishonesty and knowingly using ineligible players throughout the 2010 season.
If proven, the allegation could lead to severe punishment from the NCAA.
Still, players such as Boren and Ball are sticking by Tressel and the OSU program. Boren, who verbally committed to Ohio State in December of 2010, has a pair of older brothers, Justin and Zach Boren, who each were on the Buckeyes' roster last fall.
"It's not going to affect me either way," said Boren, who along with Kalis was recruited as an offensive lineman. "Coach Tressel is one of the best coaches I've ever met and it's not going to affect me. All of these guys putting him down, it's like a shark attack."
Ball, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who along with Dunn gives the Buckeyes two running backs for 2012, expressed only excitement about the recruiting class he's a part of.
"(Getting Epitropoulos) is very exciting," Ball said. "I'm actually friends with Frank, and it's a great addition for the Buckeyes. (The investigation) doesn't change anything for me. I'm still 100 percent, go Bucks."
The NCAA has summoned Tressel and others in the OSU administration to a hearing before the Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12 in Indianapolis.
Although the Dispatch has reported that the NCAA did not cite OSU for "failure to monitor" or "failure of institutional control," the school was warned that it might be treated as a repeat offender. Previously, the school committed violations when former quarterback Troy Smith took $500 from a booster and former men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien gave $6,000 to a recruit.
On Dec. 23, 2010, Ohio State announced that five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. Tressel was suspended by Ohio State for the first two games of next season March 8 before having the suspension increased to five games just nine days later.
Still, the idea that Ohio State recruiting will be severely affected even if the program is handed a stiffer penalty than what already has been sanctioned is far-fetched, according to one central Ohio coach.Eastmoor Academy (Columbus, Ohio)
coach Jim Miranda believes Ohio State tradition will trump any further punishment that the program or Tressel might be handed.
"This is no slight on Tressel, but Ohio State can stand on its own," said Miranda, whose program produced 2010 Ohio State recruit Ron Tanner at defensive back. "It may do something for kids out of state, but recruiting-wise I don't think it's going to hurt in the long run.
"It might raise some questions, but in terms of leadership, Luke Fickell is a great guy and he and all of the other coaches and coach Tressel work well with each other. They'll be able to pick up the pieces. It'll keep going whether (Tressel) misses a Tuesday, a Wednesday or even a Saturday."Jarrod Ulrey covers Central and Northern Ohio for MaxPreps.com. He has covered prep sports for
ThisWeekSPORTS.com for 16 years and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.