NCAA: Improper gifts, assistance given to athletes

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NCAA notified Ohio State on Monday of
nine alleged rules violations, including cash gifts, improper
academic assistance and failure of the school and coaches to
monitor the men's basketball program.

Seven of the violations involved men's basketball, including a school booster allegedly giving cash and academic help to a former player.

The others involved a booster allegedly giving $500 to a
football player, and an orthodontist providing free and discounted
services to five women's basketball players.

Ohio State previously said it was looking into many of the
alleged violations, including a cash gift to a recruit from former
basketball coach Jim O'Brien, who was fired after acknowledging the payment.

"The allegations set forth in this report are consistent with
what we expected," Ohio State president Karen Holbrook said at a
news conference.

The school must respond to the allegations by July 26, and an
infractions committee will hold a hearing before determining
whether sanctions are warranted, NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson

Ohio State's athletic department has faced a series of NCAA
investigations of its high-profile sports since the football team
won the national championship in 2002.

In December, the school imposed a one-year postseason tournament
ban on its men's basketball team after O'Brien acknowledged he gave
about $6,000 to recruit Alex Radojevic in 1999. O'Brien, fired on
June 8, is seeking up to $6 million in a breach-of-contract suit
against Ohio State.

The NCAA report says O'Brien allegedly gave Radojevic the money
through then-assistant coach Paul Biancardi. O'Brien and Biancardi
are accused of acting "contrary to principles of ethical conduct"
by failing to report their involvement in NCAA rules violations,
the report said.

"We deny that we engaged in any improper conduct under NCAA
bylaws and legislation," said Biancardi's attorney, James
Zeszutek. Biancardi has cooperated fully with NCAA investigators
and is barred by the NCAA from publicly discussing the allegations,
Zeszutek said.

A message seeking comment was left with O'Brien's attorney.

Former star running back Maurice Clarett and other former
football players have alleged that athletes received money from
boosters, got academic credit for work they didn't do and received
no-show jobs at high salaries.

The only mention of the football program in the NCAA report is
an allegation that $500 was given to a football player, whose name
was withheld. Last season, quarterback Troy Smith was suspended
from the Alamo Bowl for accepting money from a booster.

Athletic director Gene Smith, who replaced Andy Geiger a month
ago, said the allegations in the NCAA report were less serious than
speculation indicated.

"What you see before you is what they found in football," he
said, adding he would be surprised if sanctions are imposed against
the football team.

Clarett was suspended for the 2003 season for lying to
investigators during an NCAA probe of allegations that he received
improper benefits from a family friend.