Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith announced Monday afternoon that three football players have been suspended for Saturday’s away game at Nebraska for accepting improper benefits while employed for a Cleveland-area booster.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall joins running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey – who were previously expected to return from a five game suspension from another non-related scandal – in the latest announcement of the indefinite suspension.
Robert "Bobby" DiGeronimo, who has since been disassociated from Ohio State, is the booster connected to the latest NCAA violation for paying the aforementioned players for more hours than they worked.
"This is an employment violation," Smith said." The violation involves excessive compensation regarding hours worked and hours paid. This was a rigorous investigation collaborated with the NCAA enforcement staff. The dollar mounts with each student athletes determines the penalty that will ultimately be levied by the NCAA."
Because of Posey and Herron’s previous involvement in the tattoo and memorabilia scandal announced originally in December of 2010, both players could see suspensions from that incident also increased.
Posey had one additional NCAA violation reported after he accepted a free round of golf at the Scioto Reserve Country Club. The value of that extra benefit was valued at $102.
In the program’s letter to the NCAA it indicated the players were involved in “day labor jobs” such as working at a carwash, picking up scrap metal at a recycling yard, or sorting through items in a storage area. For the work, the players were compensated $15 per hour.
Also in the letter Ohio State maintained that it was possible the players were unaware they were being overpaid.
"It was not obvious to the student-athletes that they were being overpaid,” the letter stated. “The student-athletes were not told their hourly wage. According to the controller, no timecards were completed, as a supervisor verbally reported the hours worked to the controller, who wrote the check.”
Two names also mentioned in Smith’s announcement were Melvin Fellows and Etienne Sabino. Fellows received a medical hardship after suffering a career-ending injury and Smith confirmed Sabino has already been cleared.
Herron was overpaid $292.50 after receiving compensation for 104 hours of work despite working just under 85 total hours. Posey was overpaid by $720 for 70 hours of total work after only working 21.5.
Fellows was also overpaid $292.50, while Hall received an extra $233 and Sabino $60.
The most glaring issue is with Posey, who had one instance of compensation for 20 hours of work after working no hours, calling for some question as to how he could have been unaware that he was being overpaid.
The majority of instances of overpayment occurred in 2011, long after initial incidents with the NCAA surfaced for Ohio State.
Monday’s announcement was just one more on the thread of off-the-field issues that have hit Ohio State. DiGeronimo was also involved in 3-game suspensions of running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard, and defensive back Corey Brown earlier in the season.
Though after Ohio State’s four-hour meeting with the NCAA on Aug. 12 the program was informed that it could be hit with lack of institutional control or failure to monitor charges if more information came to light, Smith is confident that won’t happen.
“We're optimistic that failure to monitor and lack of institutional control is not an allegation that will emerge," Smith said before explaining that the mistakes were made by individuals, not the institution. “These were individual decisions by individual people. Were there lessons learned for us? No question. At the end of the day, individual decisions were made to go off the reservation.”
Though it has been seven weeks since the meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis where the program was informed there that decisions will be announced in 8-to-12 weeks, Smith anticipates a ruling will taken even longer now.
Smith acknowledged that he’s being held responsible for the repeated incidents off the field but doesn’t feel as if there is a systemic problem at Ohio State.
When asked if the continual off-the-field violations committed by players on the football team was emblematic of a systemic problem, Smith responded by putting emphasis on the amount of players involved not how many incidents occurred.
“I am held accountable,” Smith said. “That's why I'm sitting here today. We have to constantly work with our student athletes to educate them about accountability ... and then educate those people around them to ensure that our student athletes aren't taken advantage of by people around them.”
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