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LINCOLN, Neb. — A photo of wrestler Paul Donahoe, arms raised in victory, rushing from the mat, is still on the wall at the University of Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center, where he worked his way to a 2007 national championship in the 125-pound weight class.
Donahoe was both the pride and potential of Nebraska’s esteemed wrestling program, which has produced six Olympic wrestlers, including 2000 gold medalist Rulon Gardner.
But this past summer, before Donahoe’s final season and his last shot at another national championship, that pride turned to shame. A phone call from a parent tipped university officials off to nude photos and video of Donahoe on Fratmen.tv, a pornographic Web site aimed at gay men.
Think a wrestling singlet is revealing? The photos and video of Donahoe on Fratmen.tv left nothing to the imagination. There Donahoe was, gyrating and masturbating among tousled bed sheets, under running water in a marbled tile shower and on a charcoal chaise lounge facing a patio window. At times, the big, black-and-red trademark “N” for Nebraska, which is tattooed on his left thigh, was visible.
He went by the stage name “Nash.”
The Web site’s producers masked the tattoo of his real last name on his torso. But that didn’t keep Nebraska wrestling coach Mark Manning from recognizing Donahoe when the images reached his desk. On Aug. 12, 2008, Manning kicked his national champion off the team.
He did the same to Donahoe’s cohort, Kenny Jordan, whom Fratmen.tv also paid to pose nude.
The gay porn offended moral consciences in the Nebraska athletic department and among Huskers fans, some of whom called into “The Spread,” a local sports talk radio show, to debate the athletes’ dismissal, says co-host and former Nebraska football player Jason Peter.
“I think it’s probably the act itself that people probably couldn’t fathom, or didn’t register in people’s heads that this would actually happen in Lincoln, Nebraska, with college kids,” Peter says. “I think when people think of the porn industry, they’re probably thinking it’s either Las Vegas or it’s Los Angeles. … But in your own backyard, I think it probably shocked people a little bit. Even though they didn’t talk about it a lot, I’m sure a lot of people were wondering, ‘How did they come to this decision?’”
Both wrestlers say a rep from Fratmen.tv contacted them through their Facebook and MySpace pages, asking them whether they would like to make some money and score a free trip to Los Angeles by posing for some pictures.
It is an NCAA violation for an athlete to take money to promote his image, according to Nebraska officials. That transgression goes against NCAA rules intended to preserve amateurism, and it can result in a loss of eligibility. Reinstating that eligibility is handled on a case-by-case basis, but the NCAA doesn’t comment on individual cases. The wrestlers refused to say how much they earned from the Web site. But Donahoe claims he paid back $3,500 — the value of his earnings and the trip to L.A. — to reinstate his NCAA eligibility.
Much Much more on this story at ESPN.