Cars! Cars! Cars!
This I just read....
Ohio State to investigate players' car deals
Official: No known problems with dozens of sales
Saturday, May 7, 2011 03:07 AM
By Jill Riepenhoff, Mike Wagner and Randy Ludlow
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Ohio State University's chief enforcer of NCAA rules said
yesterday that he will investigate used-car purchases made
by dozens of OSU athletes at two Columbus car dealers to see
if any sale violated collegiate rules.
The investigation was initiated after The Dispatch found in
public records that at least eight Ohio State athletes and
11 athletes' relatives bought used cars from Jack Maxton
Chevrolet or Auto Direct during the past five years. The
investigation will involve outside experts and examine at
least 50 sales, focusing on whether the athletes received
The common thread in those two dozen transactions was the
salesman: Aaron Kniffin, who has worked at both dealerships.
"We'll take a step back, we'll take a look at the
transactions and the values, and we'll make some
determinations in consultation with the (Big Ten) conference
office and go from there," said Doug Archie, associate
athletic director and head of compliance at OSU.
"I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred," he
NCAA rules don't prohibit athletes from shopping at the same
stores, eating at the same restaurants or buying cars at
the same dealerships. The rules prohibit athletes and their
relatives from receiving discounts that are not offered to
the general public.
In a joint interview with Archie yesterday, Jack Maxton
owner Jeff Mauk and Auto Direct owner Jason Goss both said
they never have given athletes special deals.
Mauk estimated that 40 to 50 Buckeyes bought cars from his
dealership in the past five or six years .
Archie said that he was aware of all the transactions
involving the athletes that The Dispatch found, but he was
unaware of purchases made by their relatives.
Both dealers, whose businesses are not connected, say they
routinely call Archie's office when an athlete is ready to
buy a car, provide the purchase price and discuss who will
co-sign on a loan. Archie said he relies on the car dealers
to provide accurate information.
"I'm not a car expert. We have to rely on their integrity
and their word when it comes to selling a car," he said.
Ohio State runs "spot checks" on some transactions against
the Kelley Blue Book value.
Archie said that he'd rather one or two dealerships didn't
receive all the OSU business. "It's something from a
compliance perspective that I would rather not have," he
Goss and Kniffin both have attended seven football games as
guests of players, including the 2007 national championship
and the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. At some point after 2008, Archie
barred Kniffin from the players' pass list because OSU rules
prohibit athletes from inviting people with whom they do
Goss said he received his passes from athletes who never
bought cars from him.
Kniffin told The Dispatch that he has sold cars to at least
four dozen OSU athletes and their relatives, that the OSU
compliance staff directed them to him, and that university
officials reviewed all documents before sales were final.
Archie said that he has spoken to Kniffin only once, never
reviews sales documents and has not directed players to any
All but one athlete and all of the relatives could not be
reached for comment or did not respond to requests for
The purchases reviewed by The Dispatch were made when
Kniffin worked at Maxton between 2004 and 2009 and then at
Auto Direct between 2009 and 2010.
Public records show that in 2009, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300
with less than 20,000 miles was titled to then-sophomore
linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. Documents show the purchase
price as $0.
Mauk could not explain it. "I don't give cars for free," he
said. Gibson said he was unaware the title on his car showed
zero as the sales price. "I paid for the car, and I'm still
paying for it," he said, declining to answer further
The cars involved sold for the average price of $11,600.
Most vehicles were Chevrolets, Buicks or Dodges manufactured
between 2000 and 2007. More than half had less than 50,000
miles when sold by Kniffin. Six cars had more than 100,000
Legally, dealers can sell cars at whatever price they want
and are not bound by NCAA rules.
The Dispatch reviewed sales prices from Ohio Bureau of Motor
Vehicle records of the 24 car transactions. The records
detail the year, make, model and mileage.
Officials at two national car-valuation companies - National
Automobile Dealers Association and Kelley Blue Book - were
asked by The Dispatch to estimate the value of the cars at
the time of purchase. The values they estimated were higher
than the price paid in nearly half of the transactions.
However, they said it's difficult to accurately evaluate the
sales without seeing the vehicles to assess condition and
"No one can tell you what a car's worth," Goss said.
Goss said that the athletes and relatives found his
dealership because he sells good cars at good prices. "I
know how to buy cars right," he said, noting that he buys
cars and acquires trade-ins at low prices, permitting him to
sell cars well below retail.
Two former NCAA enforcement officials, who spoke to The
Dispatch on the condition of anonymity, individually said
there's cause for concern.
The two collectively have decades of NCAA compliance
experience. Neither had ever heard of so many athletes
buying cars from the same salesman.
Car ownership among athletes has been a recurring issue at
Ohio State dating back to Maurice Clarett in 2003 and
extending to the current NCAA investigation of OSU
memorabilia sales in which, among other things, one player
traded Rose Bowl watches for a vehicle. Four of the six
players suspended for selling items for tattoos - or their
relatives - also bought cars from the dealers.
The Dispatch began looking at car ownership after Kniffin's
name showed up on the players' guest list for three football
games in 2007.
By then, Kniffin, who was working for Maxton, had sold cars
to football players Gibson, Chris "Beanie" Wells and Maurice
Wells while they were still in school. The mothers of both
Wells' also bought cars. At the time, Beanie's mom lived in
Akron and Maurice's lived in Maryland.
While employed there, Kniffin also sold cars to football
players Robert Rose, Doug Worthington and Solomon Thomas. He
also sold cars to Kurt Coleman's brother, Robert Rose's
father and Ray Small's father.
While at Auto Direct, a used-car dealership at 2300 E.
Dublin-Granville Rd., he sold to wide receiver DeVier Posey
and basketball player William Buford. Relatives who bought
cars from Kniffin include Pryor's mother and brother, Daniel
"Boom" Herron's father, basketball player Jon Diebler's
parents and Solomon Thomas' father.
Kniffin also loaned cars to quarterback Terrelle Pryor,
including his own for a three-day test drive to
Pennsylvania, where Pryor lives.
Kniffin, 42, who is now selling cars in an undisclosed
state, vividly recalled details of the cars sold. He
disputed, however, the sales prices that were listed on
state motor-vehicle records.
"The sales price is much more than that," he said. "You are
so far away from what the transactions are all about."
Ohio law requires dealers to report accurate information
about all car sales for tax purposes. Failure to submit
accurate information is a first-degree misdemeanor
punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Registrar Mike Rankin said the
agency would investigate the transactions amid Kniffin's
statement that the figures listed on titles were less than
the true sale prices. Rankin likewise was puzzled by
Gibson's title reflecting a loan but no sales price.
"There are clearly some issues that are problematic. It's
worth seeing if there are any dealer improprieties," Rankin
Goss disputed Kniffin's assertion that vehicles were sold to
OSU players at prices higher than listed on the titles.
"Titles reflect sales prices."
Auto Direct's showroom is filled with autographed jerseys
from former and current players who have purchased cars from
Goss, who said he is a big Buckeyes fan, said he received no
memorabilia from players, who autographed jerseys he had
purchased while buying their cars.
Kniffin, who said he is not an OSU fan, has had financial
problems since 2006. He now owes more than $130,000 to the
IRS, and his $570,000 Delaware County home is in
At least six major athletic programs have faced NCAA
sanctions since 1990 because their athletes had free use of
cars or received suspect deals on purchases: Arizona State
(2005), Illinois (1990 and 2005), Minnesota (2000),
Louisville (1996), Michigan State (1996), and Southern
Gee, I hope Cameron Heyward wasn't involved with this.