Introduction
  • Image Credit: Terry Gilliam, AP

Introduction

Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been in hot water ever since word got out of the star athlete's alleged possession of eight used cars in three years at the university. His latest ride, a charcoal black Nissan 350Z, captured the media's attention as the Ohio State football program appeared to be crumbling under numerous NCAA violations by the players and coach. More and more questions started coming up about the legitimacy of Pryor's vehicle ownership.

If there were, in fact, violations, the public won't know about them for sure until the NCAA and OSU conclude their investigation of more than 50 used vehicle purchases by Buckeye players and their friends and family members.

Pryor may be the latest college athlete to come under fire for NCAA violations involving cars, but he is certainly not the first. College athlete car scandals have become more and more prevalent as universities have turned a blind eye to violations in the name of getting more wins and, thus, more TV money, more booster support, etc. Here are a few more car-related NCAA scandals, and with each example, a window into the vehicular tastes of today's flashy and nearly professional athletes.

Terrelle Pryor
  • Image Credit: Nissan

Terrelle Pryor

Who: Ohio State quarterback

Car: Nissan 350Z

Price: $27,900 (2007 model year new), $17,000 - $28,000 (used)

Notoriety: AOL Autos is impressed with this choice, as the 350Z tends to fly under the radar as a sports car, with many people opting for flashier and more expensive brands and sports-car models. A Porsche is the more obvious choice in this segment. As such, the Z is a car that hasn't really experienced any notoriety. Until now. A perfectly capable and fun to drive car, we have to admit that despite all of his wrongdoing, Pryor has decent taste.

Back story: Pryor's Nissan 350Z captured America's attention when he was filmed rolling up to a team meeting in the charcoal black sports car. Even though Pryor's license had been suspended in February and has not yet been reinstated, the star quarterback has been seen driving the sports car or one of the other 8 cars that had been in Pryor's possession during his three years at Ohio State.

Darren McFadden
  • Image Credit: GM

Darren McFadden

Who: University of Arkansas Razorbacks running back, now playing for the Oakland Raiders

Car: Cadillac Escalade

Price: $55,990 (2008 model year)

Notoriety: The Escalade is the go-to car for those that have money and really want to show it off. Driven by famous Hollywood actors, hip-hop artists and professional athletes, the luxury SUV tends to be a top vehicle of choice for today's rich and famous. Why? The athletes, especially, tend to be big guys and like the brawn and bling of the chrome-laded Escalade. The "Slade" comes complete with top-of-the-line luxury amenities and a certain cache that always makes it seem like the driver is saying "Get out of the way, I'm better than you." The Escalade in recent years is probably the vehicle that most often shows up in rap lyrics.

Back story: In 2007, Darren McFadden was investigated by his school's compliance director for the Cadillac Escalade he was spotted driving around town. At the time, McFadden was actually in danger of missing the 2008 Cotton Bowl against the Missouri Tigers because it was unclear whether McFadden had purchased the car himself or if it had been given as a gift. If it was the latter, McFadden could no longer be considered an amateur athlete and would have thus been ruled ineligible to take the field with the Razorbacks.

After conducting the review, the University of Arkansas found no wrongdoing and ruled that McFadden was eligible to play. The extent of their ruling was vague at best and left some questioning the outcome, but it didn't matter in the end. The Razorbacks lost 38-7.

Reggie Bush
  • Image Credit: GM

Reggie Bush

Who: Former University of Southern California running back, now playing for New Orleans Saints.

Car: Chevrolet Impala SS

Price: $24,405 (1996 model year), $13,000 (price paid by New Era)

Notoriety: A 10-year old Impala seems like an odd thing for a college athlete to request when his financial backers were likely willing and able to come up with something much more expensive and flashy. The appeal of the Impala, however, has always lay in its customization. The ability to outfit old Impalas with big rims and hydraulics has made it a long time favorite of those looking to customize their rides. Given his feature in the magazine Dub, which highlights blinged-out cars, we think this was the exact logic Bush used when picking out this particular car.

Back story: Among many, many other things, running back Reggie Bush received a black-on-black Chevrolet Impala SS while playing for the USC Trojans in the mid-2000s. According to an investigation, financial backers of New Era Sports, a sporting goods company, paid for the car as well as the star's rent and other items while he was enrolled as a student-athlete.

Because Bush received these lavish extra benefits, USC was stripped of its 2004 National Championship and Bush eventually relinquished his Heisman Trophy. Seriously, was an Impala, even one tricked out, worth all of that? Bush could have probably driven a Chevy Cavalier and kept the Heisman and championship.

LeBron James
  • Image Credit: GM

LeBron James

Who: Former star high school basketball player at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, Akron, Ohio and current Miami Heat forward.

Car: Hummer H2

Price: $48,455 (2003 model year)

Notoriety: This hulking SUV was dubbed the "poster-car for Global Warming" by one General Motors executive. The stigma sunk the entire Hummer brand, which was shut by GM in 2010 when no buyers were forthcoming. In mid decade, before the financial meltdown of 2008, the Hummer H2 took on the identity of being perhaps the most obnoxious street-legal vehicle one could buy. If it fits, drive it, LeBron.

Back story: LeBron James' mother gave him a Hummer H2 outfitted with video game consoles and screens, tipping the sticker price above $60,000. The Ohio High School Athletic Association investigated to see if an agent, or school boosters had arranged the car for Gloria James to give to her son, thus skirting the governing body's rules on taking money or goods and services from sports agents or boosters. Ms. James produced loan papers showing her as borrower. With James skipping college to head into the NBA draft, it was a small risk on the part of U.S. Bank in Columbus.

Fab Five (Mateen Cleaves) - Ford Explorer
  • Image Credit: Ford

Fab Five (Mateen Cleaves) - Ford Explorer

Who: Former University of Michigan basketball players Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson and star basketball recruit Mateen Cleaves.

Car: Ford Explorer

Price: $19,570 (1996 model year)

Notoriety: The Ford Explorer back in the 1990s was the best selling SUV in America. It later gained infamy during the Firestone tire fiasco. In the year 2000, the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Association made Ford investigate the high instance of failure on Explorers -- as well as Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos -- fitted with Firestone tires. Ford found that several models of 15" Firestone tires had a high rate of failure and issued a massive recall of the SUVs. Today, the 2011 Ford Explorer has enjoyed a complete redesign and comes jam-packed with cutting-edge safety features.

Back story: A crashed Ford Explorer launched one of the biggest NCAA investigations in history, which ultimately resulted in an infamous University of Michigan Basketball scandal. On February 17, 1996, the SUV carrying several Michigan basketball players and top recruit Mateen Cleaves (who would later go on to play for rival Michigan State) lost control on the road while returning to the university from a party in Detroit. The accident's investigation revealed that the players had stopped at University of Michigan's athletic booster Ed Martin's house where he provided all of the student-athletes with money for a party involving drugs, alcohol and strippers. The revelation brought the relationship between Martin and the players into question and, after conducting a long investigation, the university was found guilty of a laundry list of NCAA violations. And the whole scandal was brought to light by that banged up Explorer.



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