COLUMBUS — The scandal plagued football program at Ohio State University took another significant hit Monday when it was announced that three key offensive players who were expected to be available for Saturday’s Big Ten game at Nebraska now will be suspended for that contest.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith said offensive lineman Marcus Hall, wide receiver DeVier Posey and running back Dan Herron will all be forced to sit out the game against the Cornhuskers for what the NCAA said was “an employment violation.”
The trio was part of a group of five Ohio State players that the NCAA said received excessive pay that was not commensurate with the time they worked at summer jobs when they were employed by a Cleveland area booster. The work in question took place as far back as June of 2009 and as recently as this past summer, according to copies of the players’ time logs supplied by OSU.
Hall had been a starter at guard in every game this season for the 3-2 Buckeyes. Posey and Herron were part of a group of five players originally suspended for the first five games of 2011 over their roles in selling or trading memorabilia and autographed football equipment for cash and discounts on tattoos.
Posey was the leading returning receiver on the team, while Herron was the leading rusher from 2010 and a first-team all-Big Ten pick last season.
Their original suspension was completed as they sat out last Saturday’s home loss to Michigan State, but now Posey and Herron will remain out of the lineup.
Two additional Ohio State players — defensive lineman Melvin Fellows and starting linebacker Etienne Sabino — were also overpaid for work by Cleveland area booster Bobby DiGeronimo, the NCAA said, but Fellows is out for the season for medical reasons, and Sabino has already been reinstated by the NCAA.
“The violation involves excessive compensation, regarding hours worked and dollars paid,” Smith said while addressing the issue at a news conference at Value City Arena.
The lengthy report on the matter issued Monday by Ohio State indicated that the suspended players were part of a large group of Buckeyes who were employed by DiGeronimo.
The report said the players were paid $15 an hour, and detailed that the overpayment to Posey was $728, while Herron and Fellows were overpaid $293 each. Hall received $233 in excess pay, while Sabino was overpaid by $60.
They worked for DiGeronimo’s businesses, which include an excavating company, a car wash, and a recycling center.
Smith said DiGeronimo, who has had a long relationship with Ohio State football, has been formally “disassociated with the program,” and furnished copies of a Sept. 20 letter to DiGeronimo’s lawyer detailing the break. Smith fended off questions over whether or not DiGeronimo’s actions had been closely scrutinized or monitored in the past.
DiGeronimo is the same booster involved with paying three other Ohio State players — running back Jordan Hall, and defensive backs Corey Brown and Travis Howard — to appear at a charity event earlier this year.
That resulted in the three serving a two-game suspension to start the current season.
Despite the additional suspensions, Smith insisted that the Ohio State program does not deserve a “failure to monitor” or “lack of institutional control” declaration from the NCAA.
Smith said the blame rests with disgraced former head coach Jim Tressel, the now banned booster, and the players involved in the violations
“These failures are individual failures — failures of individual athletes, and as you know, unfortunately, a previous coach, and a booster,” Smith said while defending his handling of the scandal and the work of the OSU compliance office.
“Individual decisions were made that went off the reservation, and we have to find a way to curtail those.”
Ohio State appeared before the NCAA’s committee on infractions in August to state its case and was expected to learn by mid-October if any additional sanctions would be levied on the football program. Ohio State has self-imposed several measures, including vacating its 2010 season, a Big Ten championship and a Sugar Bowl victory.
Smith said the investigation of these additional violations involving improper pay will most likely delay the decision of the infractions body.
“It was anticipated that we would be able to complete these other issues to allow the committee on infractions to consider them and get us an answer in October,” Smith said. “We were not able to accomplish that. So I anticipate the committee on infractions will take longer and give us an answer hopefully this fall.”
Ohio State officials said all-Big Ten offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas have been cleared to play in the Nebraska game. They had been suspended, along with Posey, Herron, and former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games this season over the tattoo and memorabilia affair.
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.