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Published: Tuesday, 5/17/2005

Ohio State slapped with 9 NCAA infractions


COLUMBUS - The NCAA yesterday issued what was essentially a nine-count indictment against Ohio State University's football and men's and women's basketball programs.

But while university officials said they recognized the seriousness of allegations of providing cash gifts and academic favoritism to athletes, there was a sense of relief that the report did not include a single charge stemming from highly publicized allegations by former tailback Maurice Clarett.

"Yeah, I feel good," said Gene Smith, who has been Ohio State's athletic director for about a month.

"I wasn't here at the time, but I feel good now because of where we are.●.●.," he said.

"With my familiarity with cases and knowing how typically the [NCAA] enforcement staff is very diligent in following up on things, to sit here and see that we have an 'extra benefit' allegation for football that is a single allegation is refreshing. So yeah, I feel good about it."

The single allegation stemming from the football program dealt with wages paid by Buckeye booster Robert Q. Baker of Springfield to quarterback Troy Smith for work that was apparently never performed. The university suspended the athlete from the team for December's Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State, a game Ohio State won 33-7.

University President Karen Holbrook characterized the nine allegations as "consistent with our expectations."

Seven allegations deal with the basketball program, including the most serious claim that former coach Jim O'Brien through former assistant coach Paul Biancardi, now head coach at Wright State University, made a $6,700 payment to the family of recruit Alex Radojevic in Yugoslavia back in 1998 or 1999.

Mr. O'Brien volunteered the information last year once it was about to become public through a separate lawsuit filed by Kathleen Salyers of Gahanna, Ohio.

Ms. Salyers had sued Dan and Kim Roslovic, for whom she worked as a nanny, for allegedlyreneging on payments for another recruit, Slobodan "Boban" Savovic, to live with her. The suit was recently thrown out of court.

The NCAA alleges that Mr. O'Brien "acted contrary to the principles of ethical conduct."

The university fired Mr. O'Brien last year and voluntarily imposed a one-year ban on postseason play for the team.

University officials hope the NCAA takes note of the self-imposed sanctions, although Mr. Smith couldn't speculate what, if any, additional sanctions could be pending or whether the issue would be resolved before player signing day in November.

Mr. O'Brien has sued the state for breach of contract.

Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Biancardi's attorney, C. James Zeszutek told the Associated Press, "We deny that we engaged in any improper conduct under NCAA bylaws and legislation."

Mr. Biancardi has cooperated fully with NCAA investigators and is barred by the NCAA from publicly discussing the allegations, Mr. Zeszutek said.

Neither Mr. Smith nor Ms. Holbrook would discuss whether the school might impose more sanctions upon itself while awaiting the outcome of the NCAA process.

The ninth allegation deals with a Columbus orthodontist who provided free or discounted dental services to several women's basketball players.

The university must respond by July 26 to the allegations and provide additional information requested by the NCAA.

It then faces a hearing before the NCAA infractions committee, probably in September or October.

While noting that the most serious allegation involving Mr. O'Brien dates back to 1998 and that the university investigated and responded promptly when it learned of it, neither Ms. Holbrook nor Mr. Smith could promise such embarrassing incidents couldn't happen again.

He said the university has not been told that the NCAA investigation into Clarett's allegations is closed, but said he would have expected any findings to have been included in yesterday's report.

Clarett, who helped lead Ohio State to a national championship in 2002, was recently drafted by the Denver Broncos, a year after the NCAA went to court to prevent him from going professional following his freshman year.

He told ESPN The Magazine that coach Jim Tressel had set him up with a loaner car, that team boosters slipped him thousands in cash, and that Mr. Tressel's brother, Dick, a coach for Ohio State's running backs, got him a job as landscaper, for which he received payment even though he didn't show up for work.

Ms. Holbrook said the lack of Clarett-related allegations is consistent with its own internal investigation.

Contact Jim Provance at:


or 614-221-0496.

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