In today’s Dispatch, I wrote about how the players involved in Ohio State’s tattoo and memorabilia scandal a decade view the NCAA’s change in philosophy about college athletes’ right to profit from their name, image and likeness.
Running back Daniel "Boom" Herron put it succinctly: "Scandal is the new normal."
I talked at length with Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who along with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were the "Tat 5," as they now call themselves.
Only so much could fit into even that detailed Dispatch story, so I thought it would be useful to include some quotes and insights that didn’t make it in:
• Herron on the thinking at the time about selling the memorabilia: "We didn’t really think we were doing anything wrong, illegal, however you want to call it – a scandal – whatever it is. We were just kids and saw some opportunities. It was our stuff and thought we could do what we wanted to do with it. We just made a young mistake, and we definitely paid for it, I’ll tell you that."
• Herron on how the transgression doesn’t seem as major as time has passed: "As the years have gone by, you started seeing some other things that were happening, and it was like, ‘Man, what we did wasn’t nothing compared to what a lot of these guys have got going on.’ We got a hard punishment for what I would call a not-smart mistake that we made."
• Herron on Posey jokingly calling the Tat 5 pioneers on the path to NIL: "Absolutely," he said with a laugh. "You could definitely say that for sure. We kind of broke the ice on the whole NCAA rules (regarding selling memorabilia). A lot of people probably learned more about their rules and everything like that (from our case).
• Adams on Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel, who lost his job as a result of the scandal:
"Ohio State was really there for us through everything," Adams said. "Jim Tressel obviously went above and beyond. He bit the bullet for us. To this day, he sends me books to read and gives me advice and is there for anything I need. I’m forever indebted to him. Always have been and always will love that man to death. I love Ohio State. I’ve got nothing bad to say about Ohio State. I will be a Buckeye till I die.
"It's a really special place. It's a shame the things that happened, but it is what it is. I'm not bitter about it and mad about it. I go back to the games. I sing ‘Carmen Ohio’ and ‘Hang on Sloopy.’ I get wild."
• Adams on his belief that college athletes should be able to profit off their name, image and likeness: "I think that kids should be able to profit off their likeness as much as they can."
He said it would be a mistake to "put the brakes" on that ability. "These kids, they're in their late teens, early 20s. Their creative juices are flowing. Their perspectives are changing every day. Their identities are changing all the time. When you have such a special time in your life where you make such a big impact, and you have so much going on, if you’re able to capitalize off of every avenue of it, that would be just spectacular.
"I think it's just really good that these guys are going to be able to go out have opportunities to make money for themselves and their families without making it to the NFL, because the chances of that are not very good, and it doesn't last long once you get there. So I think giving these kids an opportunity to actually use themselves in enterprise from the get-go in college, to learn how to build a brand, brand awareness, marketing, all those things, I think it's going to build a lot of really good young businessmen. And I think it's going to be able to provide a stable financial platform for these college football players once they're out of the cleats. So I think I think it's really a great thing."
• Adams on the NCAA: At the time we played, the NCAA -- as they still are -- they take advantage of kids. They use kids. It chews you up and spit you out and leaves you with absolutely nothing in most kids' instances. I think for us, it was it was a really sad thing where we played for a really good coach, an extremely well-liked coach, like just a morally principled, good man (who got fired). And I think that the NCAA used us to send an example."
• Posey on the NCAA, specifically their ruling about selling the rings: "Selling a ring at the time wasn't illegal. That rule was implemented after, and that's why I'm (pointing out) the fallacies in the NCAA thing. They created a rule from our case. That rule didn't exist -- that you put all your jerseys, all your rings, and the equipment manager keeps them and then they give them to you when you graduate. That wasn't around. They gave you everything after every single bowl game. And you were able to do what you want with it."
• Adams dismissing concerns about issues within the team if star players can cash in far more than others: "I don't see any potential problems for players. Honestly, I could see instances where for guys who never play a down, their more popular teammates could help them out and help them make more money. Say like a Chase (Young). He has all these requests. It creates a tremendous opportunity for a guy like that to cut in some lesser-known players. So I think it creates a lot of opportunity and not much problem at all."
• Posey on the changing view of what he and his teammates did vs. what will soon be allowable: "I don't know what word you put to it. Is it corrupt? Or was it a system that is now corrected? Our system at that time, we already kind of knew where it was going. We were already getting people hitting our Facebook asking us to sign autographs, asking us to talk to family. People had access to us because that was the first time that social media was around. That was the first time that people didn’t have to be outside our dorm or know where we live (to connect). They don't have to come to the stadium or do the (slip-money-in-a-)handshake thing -- not that that was happening. We were getting Facebook messages, Twitter and Xbox and Instagram talks and getting approached that way.
"Now that doesn't have to be hidden, just that line of communication and access to these things. It just takes a whole stress and mental health factor off for the kids. They're allowed to develop their brands. They're allowed to have healthy engagement in business over content of their image and likeness."
• Posey on the penalties he got from the NCAA: "I just want my reparations," he said. "I'm joking. (But) I never felt like I did anything wrong. I just felt like I didn't like follow their rules. I found a lot of things about the organization from that and it kind of like washed everything out of my eyes. I just remember they asked me to forfeit my banking statements, my cell phone records, my email threads from my college account, my personal email. And if they were in a court of law, they wouldn't been able to."
• Posey and Adams were able to buy back their championship rings. Posey said that Adams called him and said the rings were for sale and they bought them, even if cost Posey more than the $4,000 he originally sold it for.
"I bought it back my rookie year," Posey said. "I’d promised myself if I had the opportunity to get it, I would do that. It just closed that chapter and nobody could ever say that I didn't have my ring. I ended up paying like twice as much. Funny story: The guy I'm bidding against, he messages me on Facebook, like, ‘Oh man, I almost won your ring,’ and I'm like, ‘Man, you drove the price up, bro.’"
• Thomas on players’ financial situations being a factor in breaking NCAA rules when he played: "I was a little blessed. My father, rest his soul, he always took care of me. I really didn't have to want for anything. I kind of did it out of stupidity. And now that I'm older, I understand that just a dumb, stupid immature mistake. But let me tell you, I've seen guys who, their car breaks down, they don't have tires, they can't get a new battery. They’ve got to catch the bus to practice or to school. One summer there was a power outage – I lived in Olentangy Commons -- for about a week. I’m assuming the refrigerators went bad. They weren't going to increase our stipend. [The NCAA now allows cost-of-attendance stipends and players can have access to an emergency fund in some circumstances.] So you know, you've definitely seen guys hungry, without cars. I've seen guys paying their family bills. When their parents want to watch him in a game, they have to find a hotel room. So not just bills. You’ve got to look at the whole spectrum.
"We're not blind. We're seeing the ticket sales. We're seeing the jersey sales. You can see the coaches are getting a bonus for bowl games. You're not blind. You're not ignorant to it. And as a human being, a young man, it's tough."
Added Herron: "A lot of days were struggling days. So we had to do what we had to to survive."
• Thomas on feeling the weight of the scandal at the time: "You don't realize the scale of it. You go into a stadium, you see 105,000 people, but it's bigger than that. The national media, the millions and millions of people affected. And then you scale it down to your locker room, your small team. And you can look at the disappointment in your teammates’ faces, right? When it happened, we didn’t know coach Tress was going to have to leave. So fast forward after the Sugar Bowl and fast forward to when he leaves, it hits you again. And it was a very long process."
• Thomas on his fear at the time that the incident would affect his life beyond football: You know, it's funny. A lot of people come up to me like, ‘Dude, it's so silly. It's so stupid -- free tattoos.’ And always say there were rules and we broke the rules. So that's the thing, I'm owning up to it. I think that's the biggest thing. I’ll always own up to it.
"Let me tell you a story. When I got done with Ohio State, I broke my ankle. I have my last surgery in March 2012 and I was trying to enter into the job world. And it's funny, the first thing that people find when they Google my name is Tattoo-gate. So I was paranoid for a long time I was never going to be able to find a job (in Columbus, where he’s a wine-and-beer salesman for a local distributor) and would have to move back to San Diego."