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Court denies OSU motion in ESPN suit

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

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The Supreme Court of Ohio denied Ohio State’s motion to settle a lawsuit filed against the university by ESPN, Inc., out of court.

In a letter dated Oct. 4, and signed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the Court said, “Upon consideration of respondent’s motion for referral to mediation and for stay of the scheduling entry, it is ordered by the Court that the motion is denied.”

This decision is the second blow for OSU in two weeks. On Sept. 21, the Court ordered OSU to submit unredacted documents in the suit.

John Greiner, attorney for ESPN, said, “ESPN does not comment on pending litigation.”

OSU spokesman Jim Lynch, who is mentioned repeatedly in the suit, told The Lantern in an email, “With this development, Ohio State counsel at the Attorney General’s Office are preparing to present the university’s defense to the Ohio Supreme Court.”

In the lawsuit, filed on July 11, ESPN sued OSU for withholding records that the sports network viewed as public documents.

ESPN said OSU wrongfully cited the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a reason for withholding various documents.

ESPN stated in the lawsuit that producers at the sporting news network had made several public records requests for all emails sent or received by President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith, compliance officer Doug Archie and former head coach Jim Tressel, that included the keyword “Sarniak.”

Ted Sarniak is a businessman in Jeanette, Pa., who is closely associated with former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

It was widely noted that Sarniak was a mentor to Pryor during both his time at OSU and in his recruitment process.

On Aug. 12, a month after the lawsuit was filed, OSU supplied a heavily redacted file of emails and compliance forms to ESPN and other members of the media. Also included in the university’s response to ESPN was a letter containing an explanation of the release of the records, and the university’s interpretation of the misunderstanding.

“Consistent with our long working relationship and many telephone conversations, we viewed the process of responding to several of those requests as ongoing,” the letter stated. “The university was unaware that ESPN thought otherwise.”

In addition to documents containing the word “Sarniak,” ESPN also requested several documents without success. ESPN said some of their requests were wrongfully denied for being overly broad.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, all denied public records requests citing that the request is too broad have to have legal reasons for the denial and be accompanied with a suggestion to make the appropriate request.

The university said through their letter that the withholding of records was not a malicious effort to block the records from ESPN, but a miscommunication of the clarity of the public record requests.

In July, Lynch released a statement stating, “The university believes that it has adhered to all applicable state and federal laws. The university has been inundated with public records requests stemming from its ongoing NCAA investigation and the university. These include voluminous requests from ESPN, which in turn has received a voluminous amount

of information.”

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