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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

OSU erred by firing coach, plaintiff says

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Columbus woman whose lawsuit led to an investigation into alleged NCAA violations by the Ohio State University men's basketball program believes OSU made a mistake by firing head coach Jim O'Brien, her lawyer said yesterday.

Kathleen Salyers, a nanny and housekeeper who said she provided housing, cash, meals, and clothes for Ohio State University basketball player Slobodan "Boban'' Savovic from 1998 to 2002, is sad that the university fired Mr. O'Brien on June 8, said her attorney, Jeffrey Lucas.

"We're disappointed at the way OSU has handled this. We think Coach O'Brien deserves due process; that he should have an opportunity to have his side heard prior to any kind of dismissal," Mr. Lucas said.

Steve Snapp, the university's assistant athletic director, declined comment yesterday.

Ohio State University fired Mr. O'Brien after he told Athletics Director Andy Geiger that in 1999 he gave $6,000 to a player he recruited, Aleksandar Radojevic. Mr. O'Brien said he gave Mr. Radojevic the money because his father had died, his mother couldn't work because of a disability, and he has two sisters and a brother, Mr. Geiger said.

Mrs. Salyers in August, 2003, sued Dan Roslovic and his ex-wife, Kim Roslovic - OSU graduates whom Mrs. Salyers said agreed to pay her $1,000 a month plus expenses over four years for Mr. Savovic's room and board. But they reneged after their divorce, Mrs. Salyers said.

Dan and Kim Roslovic have denied Mrs. Salyers' charges and Mr. Roslovic has filed a counter-claim against Mrs. Salyers alleging slander.

In August, 2003, Mr. O'Brien informed Mr. Geiger about Mrs. Salyers' lawsuit but said he didn't think it would be "significant " to the university, Mr. Geiger said.

Last March 18, a person whom Mr. Geiger would not identify told him about a lawsuit that "could cause problems for Ohio State men's basketball.''

Mr. Geiger said on April 24, Mr. O'Brien told him that he had given Mr. Radojevic the money. Mr. Radojevic never played for the Buckeyes because the NCAA determined that he had forfeited his college eligibility by playing pro basketball in his native Yugoslavia.

Mrs. Salyers, 47, had "no desire" to air allegations of NCAA violations by the university's men's basketball program, Mr. Lucas said yesterday.

The NCAA prohibits athletes from receiving financial help, except from relatives.

Mrs. Salyers said in depositions that Paul Biancardi, then an Ohio State University assistant coach and now head coach at Wright State University near Dayton, knew that she gave Mr. Savovic $200 a week and later $150 a week. She also said she believed Mr. O'Brien knew about her efforts to get faculty members to change Mr. Savovic's grades and Mr. Savovic's use of a calling card for over $10,000 in long-distance calls. The card belonged to the father of a New York sports agent.

Mr. Lucas said the allegations of NCAA violations by Ohio State University became public because attorneys for Dan and Kim Roslovic asked Mrs. Salyers hundreds of questions during depositions.

He said the attorney representing Mr. Roslovic, Kris M. Dawley, filed the three-volume deposition in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Attorneys for Dan and Kim Roslovic are seeking to have Mrs. Salyers' lawsuit dismissed.

"We tried everything we could to keep this quiet and confidential," Mr. Lucas said.

Mr. Dawley, in a statement, said: "It is unbelievable but not surprising that Kathy Salyers would express sympathy for the firing of Coach O'Brien when she is the one who brought this lawsuit and provided the information that led to his termination."

"Dan Roslovic has made no efforts to publicize this matter out of respect for the participants involved and for the legal system," Mr. Dawley added.

Mrs. Salyers is scheduled to meet with Ohio State University attorneys and NCAA investigators on Tuesday to discuss the alleged violations, Mr. Lucas said.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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