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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2011

Will Smith still have job with OSU?

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Ohio State University had a good plan. Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor were the two main culprits. We'll purge them from our football program, blame them for everything and throw ourselves upon the mercy of the NCAA. Smashing idea, eh?

Well, yeah, except for one problem. It turned out not to be altogether true.

When the payments for charity gigs showed up and the phony employment time cards and overpayments showed up, all tied to OSU booster Robert DiGeronimo, the NCAA clearly recognized some of the blame had to shift.

Ohio State now has been accused of "failure to monitor," a charge the athletic department had been trying to avoid at all costs. It is not the dreaded "lack of institutional control," but it's the runner-up on the list of NCAA indictments.

Now we wonder if Buckeyes' athletic director Gene Smith will survive because he, after all, is the monitor. He was Tressel's boss, at least by title. He's in charge of the athletic compliance staff. He's the common denominator that is weaved throughout this ugly tapestry.

Smith had donned Teflon during much of this NCAA saga, but now some of the crud is sticking and his job would figure to be in some jeopardy, despite public support from OSU president E. Gordon Gee.

Maybe Smith senses as much because for the first time he admitted some culpability last week when the failure to monitor charge came down. It was a long-overdue apology of sorts, although it was preceded by the standard give-us-points-for-trying rhetoric.

"Over the past three months," Smith said, "our athletics department staff has continued to work cooperatively with the NCAA … Throughout the process since we discovered possible infractions, the athletics department has consistently worked with the NCAA to investigate any allegation, take responsibility, self-report its findings to the NCAA in a transparent manner, and take necessary remediation steps.

"That is what we have done on this last open issue, and we accept that we should have done more to oversee Mr. DiGeronimo's activities. We look forward to working with the staff and the Committee on Infractions to reach a timely resolution of the case. On a personal note, I deeply regret that I did not ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands."

Prior to this, back when it was just the three T's -- Terrelle, tattoos and Tressel -- OSU had already vacated the 2010 season, including a Big Ten title and a Sugar Bowl victory, forfeited revenue from the Sugar Bowl, and placed itself on probation for two years.

That may have been enough to satisfy the NCAA, although we may never know, before more violations came to light. Now, OSU has tried to assuage the latest charges by self-imposing a reduction of five scholarships over three years beginning in 2012-13. Also, the university disassociated itself Sept 20 from DiGeronimo, with whom there have been issues for years. That may be too little on the former and too late on the latter.

It could place the prospect of a bowl ban back onto the table, although the timetable is jumbled with the season nearing an end. Such bans are few and far between these days, but the NCAA recognizes a systemic problem now, not just individual incidents and failures.

Then there is the issue of coach Luke Fickell's job security, or insecurity, in the aftermath of a two straight shabby performances, one resulting in last Saturday's loss at Purdue. Plus, could the severity of penalties limit the pool of candidates to replace Fickell, if it came to that?

And will there be an athletic director in place to deal with whatever comes down? It should be less of a certainty now.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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