Gene Smith: NCAA has more questions

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State must answer several questions from the NCAA before three players suspended for accepting $200 in cash at a charity event are allowed to return to the team.

Athletic director Gene Smith said Saturday he did not know if the three -- starting tailback Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and backup safety Corey Brown -- would be cleared to play at Miami on Sept. 17.

"No, I'm not confident," he told The Associated Press before the 15th-ranked Buckeyes hosted Toledo. "We do have to provide some more information to the NCAA. We'll start that process tomorrow. We've got some meetings tomorrow and Monday, and we'll get them the additional information they want and then go from there."

Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell said earlier this week the three would be available to play against Toledo. But the university and NCAA issued statements on Friday saying the players had not been reinstated.

Smith said it was all a misunderstanding.

"Luke was just like me. We were both optimistic based upon precedents that they should be reinstated," he said. "But the NCAA felt that they deserved a (longer) penalty. We were surprised. We disagreed with them. But at the end of the day when I listened to them I kind of understood their rationale."

He said the NCAA would provide its questions on Monday about the case involving those three players.

Smith also said he did not believe the latest suspensions will add to the penalties Ohio State will receive for separate NCAA violations stemming from players trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos. That scandal led to several top players being suspended for the first five games this fall, the forced resignation of 10-year coach Jim Tressel and months of investigation and scrutiny of the Buckeyes' athletic program.

"No, it's kind of a separate issue," he said of the case, which the NCAA's committee on infractions heard on Aug. 12. "What we want to do is deal with this issue (involving the latest three suspended players), get it behind us, and move on and finish up the other issues."

Smith said in all of the suspensions, Ohio State and the compliance department were victimized by players who made mistakes on their own.

"We basically had individuals who stepped outside of our system and made individual decisions," he said.

Ohio State anticipates getting its final sanctions from the NCAA sometime this fall, any time from later this month to mid-November.

Smith said he remained troubled by the wild card in the Ohio State-NCAA situation. Due to violations which occurred in the men's basketball program under then-coach Jim O'Brien, the violations earlier this year came when Ohio State was already on NCAA probation.

Many observers have said the NCAA could hand down a postseason bowl ban in addition to Ohio State's self-imposed penalties (vacating the 2010 season, paying back bowl money and going on two years of probation).

"The thing that I've always shared and was a concern of mine (is) that if they did a postseason ban, and I don't think our case merits that," Smith said. "But because we're a repeat violator they can do anything they want."