COLUMBUS - Fighting back tears and saying he no longer enjoys his job, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger abruptly retired yesterday as scandal continues to plague the Buckeyes' football and basketball programs.
Mr. Geiger, 65, and OSU President Karen Holbrook both insisted the decision to step down was Mr. Geiger's to make, and that he was not pushed out the door while the NCAA continues to investigate both sports.
"I'm just tired, just bone weary, not the kind of tired that a good night's sleep fixes. Burnout, I guess, is what they call it in the industry," Mr. Geiger said during a hastily called news conference. "I find my work is no longer fun and I no longer look forward with enthusiasm to each day.
"I can't help how people perceive this, but I know the truth. I am not running or hiding. I know what reality is. It's time for new leadership in the athletic program at Ohio State, and I'm exiting because I want to."
Mr. Geiger will not officially step down as athletic director until June 30, a year before his contract expires. He will stay with the school until June, 2006, as a fund-raiser and consultant.
But Mr. Geiger said he does not expect to continue being paid the $296,784 a year that he has received since 1994 while running one of the largest athletic departments in the country, with 36 sports and an annual operating budget in excess of $85 million.
"I'm not bitter about anything," he said. "It's bittersweet in that I wish I were leaving my job under different circumstances, that we didn't have clouds on the horizon or any of those kinds of things.
"We have sanctions to come in basketball. We know that. I'm confident in the football program, and we'll participate vigorously and fully in the investigative process."
Mr. Geiger's 11-year tenure includes the Buckeyes' national championship in football during a 14-0 season in 2002, but since then he has been on the hot seat, as has the athletic department.
Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who played an instrumental role in the Buckeyes' first national title since 1968, was suspended for lying to NCAA investigators during an investigation of allegations that he received improper benefits from a family friend.
Ohio State imposed a one-year postseason tournament ban on its men's basketball team last month over a $6,000 payment to the family of a recruit by former coach Jim O'Brien, who was fired in June. The Buckeyes still face likely NCAA sanctions.
Earlier this year, Mr. Clarett accused football coach Jim Tressel of setting him up with cars and said boosters provided him with no-show jobs and professors gave breaks to football players.
The university investigation of charges of academic fraud involving student-athletes found no wrongdoing. However, several former Buckeyes have since said that they received or knew of other athletes who received improper help maintaining their schoolwork.
The beleaguered football program came under fire again late last month when it became public that Dayton-area booster Robert Q. Baker gave Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith an unspecified amount of cash last spring. Mr. Smith was suspended for the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl game and did not play against Oklahoma State.
Despite a stellar 40-11 record in four seasons, Coach Tressel has been dogged by 15 player arrests and widespread improprieties in his program.
Neither Mr. Geiger or Ms. Holbrook would speculate about the possibility of Coach Tressel assuming a dual role as athletic director. But both repeatedly referred to the athletic director's position as a "big job."
Mr. Geiger said he does not believe his sudden exit will undermine Coach Tressel's long-term prospects at the university.
"I think Jim Tressel's record and his performance is its own evidence," Mr. Geiger said. "There were a lot of questions whether it was, from [Division] I-AA to I-A, too big a leap and those kinds of things. I think those things have been answered. I see nothing but a bright future for Ohio State football."
Mr. Geiger, who previously served as athletic director at Maryland and Stanford, fired Ohio State football coach John Cooper and brought in Coach Tressel from Youngstown State as his replacement. He also hired Thad Matta to replace Coach O'Brien in basketball.
Mr. Geiger also oversaw an ambitious updating of Ohio State's athletic facilities, which included more than $200 million to expand and update 83-year-old Ohio Stadium.
Ms. Holbrook called Mr. Geiger "one of the premier athletic directors in the nation" and said she hoped yesterday's announcement would bring "closure to some of the significant issues of recent months."
Ms. Holbrook announced the formation of a search committee to find Mr. Geiger's replacement and dismissed the suggestion that the lingering clouds over the Buckeyes' football and basketball programs could hinder the hiring process.
"My guess is you're going to see hundreds of people with an interest in this position," Ms. Holbrook said. "This is the top athletic director's position in the nation, and to be able succeed Andy Geiger in this position is a plum. I suspect we're going to get first-rate candidates."
One name likely to surface is that of Paul Krebs, the athletic director at Bowling Green State University.
Mr. Krebs spent 14 years at Ohio State before becoming the Falcons' AD in 1999. He started at OSU as ticket director for athletics in 1985 and was promoted to assistant athletic director in 1987. In 1991 he was promoted to assistant athletic director for administration, then named senior associate athletic director in 1993.
Two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin, president of the OSU alumni association, said last night that he was not interested in the job.
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