OSU says no violations occurred at benefit dinner

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio State investigation has concluded
no NCAA rules violations occurred at a spaghetti-dinner fundraiser
in Akron to help families of four Ohio State players attend the
national championship game.

The players could have been suspended if they were found in
violation of rules that prohibit athletes from receiving special

"The bottom line on this issue is: Did these student-athletes
receive an extra benefit or not?" said NCAA spokesman Bob
Williams. "Everything that I have heard is that they did not."

Starting tailback Antonio Pittman and his backup, Chris Wells
were at the Dec. 23 spaghetti dinner but left midway through after
Paulette Wells, Chris Wells' mother, called Ohio State offensive
coordinator Jim Bollman to ask whether it might violate NCAA
bylaws. Bollman advised her to have the Buckeyes players leave the
event, which they did.

"We have thoroughly investigated this situation and feel
confident that no rule violations occurred," said Doug Archie,
Ohio State's associate director of athletics for compliance. "We
have talked to all the principals involved and are confident that
the players and their families had no prior knowledge of the event.
Additionally, no money was given to anyone associated with the Ohio
State football program. Those are the litmus tests."

Williams said the matter could still be revisited by the NCAA,
if it learns of something beyond what Ohio State discovered in its

"It could be independently looked at and that happens all the
time," Williams said. "If it looks like there are other issues
that need to be looked at, then of course they'd be looked at."

The families of sophomore defensive end Lawrence Wilson and
senior defensive back DeAngelo Haslam also would have benefited
from the event but did not attend. All four players are from the
Akron area.

In Gainesville, Fla., Gators coach Urban Meyer said Ohio State's
players should not be penalized because they didn't knowingly do
anything wrong. He said the situation reveals how hard it is for
parents to travel to see their sons play.

"That's awful that the parents sometimes can't go see their
players play," he said. "When I see things like that, I'd love to
help the parents too get out there because they need to go see
their kids play. Some of the parents told me what it cost to go
watch this game. It's nuts."

The dinner was intended to defray travel costs for the families
to the Jan. 8 championship game in Glendale, Ariz. Almost 100
people at $8 per person attended the fundraiser.

"I don't think anybody had intentions of doing anything
illegal," Bollman said earlier this week. "But people did some
things without thinking about it."

Dawn Stigger-Ferguson, a friend of one player's family and the
fundraiser organizer, said previously the money would go instead to
local youth football organizations. But in a statement Thursday,
she said the event lost money because of the cost of food and

Her intent was to help a family friend and she did not ask the
players to attend, Stiggers-Ferguson said.

"I would like to apologize to Ohio State, the fans, the players
and their families for this unfortunate incident," she said.

Pittman is the team's leading rusher and scorer with 1,171 yards
and 13 touchdowns. Wells, a freshman, is second in rushing with 567
yards and has scored seven times. Wilson is in the rotation on the
defensive line and has played in 10 games, totaling 14 tackles
including five for negative yardage -- sixth best on the team.
Haslam has not played this season.

Ohio State's athletic department was handed three years of
probation in March of 2006 stemming from seven violations which
took place in the men's basketball program and one each in football
and women's basketball -- many of which involved extra benefits for
athletes, particularly money given to two men's basketball players
from Eastern Europe.

Half of page 22 of Ohio State's football media guide includes
NCAA regulations and compliance notes. One subtitle is: "Got
Questions? Ask Compliance."

Quarterback Troy Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy earlier this
month, was suspended for the 2004 bowl game and the 2005
season-opener for accepting $500 from a team booster. Soon after
that, Ohio State began putting messages to boosters and fans in the
media guide and on video screens around venues.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said major problems were
avoided because the players recognized that the fundraiser might be
an extra benefit as defined by the NCAA.

"Obviously, the coaches and compliance staff are doing a good
job of educating our players, and our players are listening to what
they are saying," Smith said.

The Buckeyes are set to leave for the national championship game