OSU Avoids Major Sanctions

Jim O'Brien

As expected, the Ohio State men's basketball team avoided serious sanctions by the NCAA Infractions Committee. The Buckeyes have been placed on three years probation and must pay back around $800,000 to the NCAA. But OSU will face no further postseason bans, or loss of scholarships.

The NCAA held a teleconference Friday morning to announce the violations that were committed by Ohio State's men's basketball team during the tenure of former head coach Jim O'Brien (1998-2004).

Citing "failure to monitor," Ohio State was placed on three years probation, but will not face any further postseason bans, or loss of scholarships (OSU issued a self-imposed one-year postseason ban last season, and removed two scholarships). The NCAA will erase the Buckeyes' NCAA Tournament records from 1999-2002 – including the '99 Final Four – and Ohio State also must pay back the majority of tournament revenue from those years.

The following is a statement from an NCAA spokesperson:

"On Dec. 9, 2005, and then again on Feb. 3-4, 2006, Ohio State University, as well as former head men's head basketball coach (O'Brien), and a former assistant coach (Paul Biancardi), appeared before the NCAA committee for infractions to address allegations of violations in recruiting, extra benefits, academic fraud, ethical conduct, and rules compliance monitoring. The vast majority of the allegations involve the men's basketball program and focused on two prospective international athletes. One prospect, was a 7-3 junior college transfer (Aleksandar Radojevic) who never enrolled at Ohio State and was ultimately the 12th draft pick in the 1999 NBA draft. The other prospect (Boban Savovic) enrolled in the school and competed for four years. In part, the men's basketball violations illustrate what can happen when prospective student athletes arrive on campus in the summer prior to enrollment without either a place to live, or the wherewithal to support themselves.

"In the case with the individual that we're calling ‘Prospect B' (Savovic), both former coaches knew that he was in Columbus in the summer of 1998 prior to his enrollment. And they also knew with whom he resided. The former assistant coach was actively engaged with Prospect B's housing arrangement. Arrangements whereby he first resided with two boosters, and then subsequently with another booster. Beginning in summer '98, and continuing through the 2001-02 academic year, that booster, that second booster (Kathleen Salyers) provided Prospect B with cash, housing and other extra benefits. She and others at her request also wrote papers and engaged in academic fraud on his behalf. She also provided cash, housing and other benefits to Prospect A, that is the 7-3 prospect who went pro and never played at Ohio State.

"Of particular concern to the committee was the pattern by both former coaches of failing to provide critical information in a timely fashion to the institution, as well as providing information only when it became clear that it otherwise was going to be known. One illustration of this pattern was a cash payment between $6,000 and $7,000 provided to the family of Prospect (A). This payment was made by the former head coach, with the assistance of the former assistant coach in late 1998. Neither of them disclosed the payment to the institution at that time. Further, in April of 1999, the institution was seeking reinstatement of eligibility of this prospect for his participation on a professional team in Europe. Both coaches again failed to alert the institution that they had made (at least) a $6,000 cash payment to him. They remained silent even though the former head coach was an active participant in the reinstatement process, and the former assistant coach knew that reinstatement process was occurring. And even though the information was critically relevant to a decision whether Prospect A ultimately could be reinstated eligibility. They continued to remain silent until April of '04 when a lawsuit was filed by (Salyers) against two other boosters. Through that lawsuit it was clear that information about the cash payment would become public. Only then did the former head coach tell the institution about the payment.

"The penalties that had been imposed in this case include vacation of records in regards to the men's basketball team for the period of which Prospect B competed on the team. They also include a period of three years probation. The school took itself out of postseason in 2004-05 and the committee adopted that penalty as part of its own. The penalties also included a directive that the institution needs to reimburse the NCAA for 90 percent of the distribution that it received from the Big Ten Conference for that four year period, and will also need to reimburse the NCAA for any monies still coming from the conference with regard to participation in the tournament those four years.

"There were also show cause orders placed on both the former head coach, and the assistant coach. The head coach show cause order goes out to 2011, it's a five-year show cause. The former assistant's show cause runs until Oct. 1, 2007."

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith reacted to the infractions. "We're relieved," he said. "The findings actually allow us to move forward and take the pressure of the kids. While there are penalties that we will have to bear – and they're serious – we're just glad they're over with."

Smith was asked what affect he thinks the infractions will have on the men's basketball program.

"The biggest one is financial," Smith said. "We have to pay back about $800,000. And the other one is probation. While we always have to operate like we're on probation, it is a stigma for our institution to be on probation. And the other one is failure to monitor. We have an excellent compliance program and an excellent compliance advisor. We accept that the charge of failure to monitor was there and we agreed with it, but that's awful hard to swallow. We understand why we have the penalties. We'll accept them and move on."



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