In addition to the usual classwork, weightlifting, and wind sprints most college football players will undertake this summer, the University of Toledo has added a wrinkle to its preseason training regimen.
A meeting with a lawyer.
Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has appointed Michael Glazier, an attorney with Bond, Schoeneck, and King of Overland Park, Kan., as special counsel for UT.
Mr. Glazier will interview every UT football and men's basketball player, except for incoming freshmen, to determine their eligibility for the upcoming season.
Mr. Glazier will be joined in the interviews by Alice Skeens, a UT psychology professor and newly appointed faculty athletics representative.
The interview process is a step beyond the normal paperwork and academic requirements UT athletes must complete to be eligible for their respective sports.
It's a tactic seldom used in college sports, but one that university President Lloyd Jacobs feels is right for the times at UT.
Dr. Jacobs ordered the interviews as part of his demand for tighter controls within the athletic department, a development The Blade first reported on June 14.
His directive was handed down about 2 1/2 months after a UT football player was arrested in connection with an alleged point-shaving scheme at the university and one day after The
Blade asked UT finance officials about improper spending within the athletic department.
"Determining the eligibility of players is really important this year, and I just want to be sure that this year it's done very, very well," Dr. Jacobs said at the time.
A criminal complaint was filed on March 29 against Harvey "Scooter" McDougle, Jr., 22, who was charged with conspiring with a Detroit-area gambler and unnamed UT athletes to influence the outcomes of football and basketball games.
Federal investigators dropped the charges on April 18, and Mr. McDougle's father told The Blade on Friday that his son's lawyer has indicated he would not be indicted on gambling charges.
Mr. McDougle's attorney, James Burdick, denied telling anyone that his client would not be indicted, but he also declared Mr. McDougle to be innocent.
Federal prosecutors and investigators say the investigation is ongoing, and Dr. Jacobs knows the original complaint cited UT football and men's basketball players.
Athletes from those teams are the only ones at UT being asked to speak with Mr. Glazier, but Dr. Jacobs said athletes on other teams could be directed to speak with an attorney in the future.
The university president said UT's football and men's basketball players will not be allowed to practice until they are declared eligible by Mr. Glazier and Ms. Skeens - a declaration which is to be delivered in writing to Dr. Jacobs and Athletic Director Mike O'Brien.
"He's trying to be proactive," UT spokesman Tobin Klinger said of Dr. Jacobs' orders.
"He's recognized that there's some potential issues within the department, and he's trying to make sure we're beyond reproach."
According to Mr. Dann's appointment letter to Mr. Glazier, the attorney will be compensated by UT at a rate of $285 per hour for his services, but payments to the attorney are not to exceed $45,000.
Mr. Klinger said Mr. Glazier has begun to work with the university in an advisory role.
The Ohio attorney general represents the university and approves the hiring of outside counsel.
Mr. Glazier's law firm, Bond, Schoeneck, and King, is well known for representing universities when their athletic departments are facing sanctions from the NCAA for rules violations.
The firm worked with by Ohio State University in 2005 and the University of Michigan in 1997 when their men's basketball teams were charged by the NCAA with breaking rules.
Dell Robinson, associate commissioner for legislative and compliance services with the Mid-American Conference, said any time a university brings in this kind of law firm it's "conducting good business."
"This is an outstanding idea on [UT's] part," he said.
Where the relationship between the firm and UT is unique, according to officials from several major universities, is that Mr. Glazier has been called in at UT to pre-empt an NCAA investigation.
Jamie McCloskey, associate athletic director for compliance and sports administration at the University of Florida, said it was unusual for entire teams to be interviewed by a lawyer prior to the start of a season.
But Mr. McCloskey, whose department has high-profile football and men's basketball programs and endured its own football betting scandal in 1989, said universities will occasionally ask individual athletes to speak with special counsel.
Dan Trump, the University of Maryland's associate athletic director for compliance, said lawyers were not used to determine eligibility there, even after five athletes were caught betting on sports in 1995.
Mr. Trump said that Maryland, like other institutions, provides educational programming for its athletes regarding all the dangers they may face, including gambling and drug use.
Sid Sink, the associate athletic director for compliance and eligibility at Bowling Green State University, said every school, including UT, tries very hard to "ensure we aren't allowing someone to compete who is ineligible."
Mr. Sink said the reason most universities don't involve outside counsel when determining eligibility is that "most schools probably can't afford to have a lawyer interview all their student-athletes.
"I'm sure [Dr. Jacobs] feels that something isn't right, and he's doing what he can to correct those issues," Mr. Sink said.
UT isn't having all of its athletes speak to Mr. Glazier, just football and men's basketball players.
Coaches for both teams dismissed the notion that their players were being singled out on campus.
"Anything that comes from the president, we have to respect," said UT football coach Tom Amstutz.
"It's not a big, shocking thing to me. It's just if he thinks that's good procedure right now for where we are with our program, then I accept that."
UT men's basketball coach Stan Joplin initially declined to comment on the issue, but later said: "I think if you look at the two programs, they're probably the most high-profile programs on campus. If it's something that has to be done, it has to be done."
The university declined to make its athletes available for comment.
But some parents of UT football players reached by telephone wondered why all returning players had to speak with Mr. Glazier.
Quarterback Clint Cochran's father, Dan Cochran, said he didn't mind his son speaking with an attorney, but added, "I don't know what they'll find because my son has done nothing wrong."
Jeff Opelt, whose son is Fremont Ross graduate and UT quarterback Aaron Opelt, said he trusted the coaches to "go to bat for our kids" if the players were made to do something that was unjust.
Steve Krispinsky, UT kicker Michael Krispinsky's father, echoed those comments, and said the interviews with Mr. Glazier could potentially restore the UT football program's tarnished reputation.
"Maybe they're just doing this to clear the air," Steve Krispinsky said.
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