The broadcaster filed suit in Ohio Supreme Court against Ohio State University, claiming it wrongfully withheld e-mails and other documents written by Tressel, OSU President Gordon Gee and others related to Pennsylvania businessman Ted Sarniak, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Sarniak was a key figure in a "tattoos for memorabilia scandal" that ultimately cost Tressel his job and prompted quarterback Terrelle Pryor to leave OSU and apply for the NFL's supplementary draft.
Sarniak, described as Pryor's mentor, was identified as having received forwarded copies from Tressel of e-mails written by a Columbus attorney alleging Pryor and other players had exchanged signed OSU memorabilia in exchange for tattoos.
Tressel didn't make the school or NCAA officials aware of the allegations, a probe revealed.
ESPN claims OSU cited the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act in denying it access to the documents, The Plain Dealer reported.
"It is impossible to imagine that Congress had any interest in restricting the flow of information about shady deals at a tattoo parlor when it passed FERPA in 1974," ESPN attorneys claimed.