NCAA grants Ohio State coach waiver

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State asked for and received NCAA approval to exceed the limit of football coaches on staff through the Buckeyes' bowl game.

The existing staff, under Luke Fickell, will prepare the Buckeyes on the field in the days leading up to and including their Gator Bowl game against Florida on Jan. 2. Then there is incoming coach Urban Meyer, who will handle only recruiting while hiring his own assistants.

Athletic director Gene Smith said the split staffs were "normal in some transitions." He added, "We are operating within allowable NCAA and Big Ten rules."

Ohio State requested the waiver permitting the arrangement and it was verbally approved by the NCAA on Nov. 28, the day the university officially introduced Meyer as its new coach. Fickell has served as an interim since Jim Tressel was pressured to resign on May 30 in the wake of a scandal involving Buckeyes accepting cash and tattoos for signed memorabilia.

The waiver specifies that no more than 10 coaches -- and no more than seven at any one time -- may be involved in recruiting. Ohio State asked for the waiver because otherwise it would have exceeded the maximum number of allowed coaches under NCAA rules.

There have been some rumblings at other schools that the waiver gives Ohio State a competitive advantage because their coaching staffs must deal with bowl preparations and recruiting at the same time -- with no additional people.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was asked about the coaches waiver on Friday.

"It's different. That would be my reaction. I've never heard of it," he said. "Is that an advantage? Yeah, I think so."

Later Friday, Illinois introduced new coach Tim Beckman, a former assistant at Ohio State. He revealed that Illinois has also requested a coaches waiver to help during the transition.

"I knew that was going on," Beckman said. "I think it's just something that we're gonna try to do right now so that we have that same advantage that they do."

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the practice was not all that rare.

"The NCAA has certainly received similar waiver requests prior to the bowl season from universities that have recently experienced coaching staff changes," she said in an email to The Associated Press. "When granted, these waivers are temporary, typically lasting through the bowl game, and only provide relief from maximum number of coaches allowed to be employed by the school. To prevent competitive advantage, the university still cannot exceed the number of coaches allowed to recruit at any one time and the amount of coaches allowed on the sidelines remains the same."

Smith, who said he had asked for and received the waiver when he was the AD at Arizona State, said he didn't understand why other schools would be complaining.

"We have only one coach who is not coaching -- and that's coach Meyer," he said. "We don't have a whole new staff out there recruiting. Keep in mind, the (other) guys we have recruiting are also coaching."

The NCAA and Big Ten did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chris Rogers, assistant athletic director for compliance at Ohio State, said in an email that the school has taken steps to ensure that it does not exceed the number of coaches working on either the bowl game or recruiting.

"As is common in situations where coaching staff changes occur prior to postseason competition, the institution filed a waiver with the NCAA to allow incoming coaching staff members to engage in recruiting activities only, while outgoing coaching staff members engage in on-field coaching activities," he said. "Incoming coaching staff members have been added to the institution's list of permissible recruiting coaches as they have been hired. At no point in time has the institution been over the permissible limit of on-field coaches or recruiting coaches."

Ohio State is still awaiting final word from the NCAA on its sanctions for several problems over the past year. Tressel was forced out after it was revealed that he knew players had likely broken NCAA rules by accepting improper benefits from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking probe. Several players were also suspended for taking the money and tattoos.

In subsequent revelations, players were suspended for accepting envelopes filled with $200 for attending a charity event in suburban Cleveland, and other players were overpaid for summer jobs.

The NCAA has charged Ohio State with "failure to monitor" its athletic program as a result of the ongoing problems.

Yet the NCAA officially approved Ohio State's request for the waiver in a tersely worded decision on Dec. 7.

Under the heading "Decision" is the word "Approved." Under "Conditions" the NCAA offered the limitations on the number of coaches who can be involved in recruiting.

The NCAA cited "extenuating circumstances surrounding the changes in coaching personnel and the timing of the bowl game" as the rationale for its decision to permit Ohio State to exceed the number of allowable coaches on staff.

Smith also confirmed on Friday that Iowa State assistant Tom Herman would be joining Meyer's staff as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.