COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State was placed on three years'
probation Friday, a ruling that wipes out records from four NCAA
Tournament appearances by the men's basketball team -- including a
trip to the 1999 Final Four.
The decision by the NCAA does not affect this season's team,
which is 22-4 and ranked seventh in the country. The announcement
came about two hours before the top-seeded Buckeyes' quarterfinal
game against Penn State in the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes won't be barred from postseason play as a result of
using an ineligible player from 1999-2002 under former coach Jim
O'Brien. However, the school will have to repay tournament
revenues, likely around $800,000, for the four years in which Boban
Savovic played. He received improper gifts, including housing and
cash, from a booster.
Of the roughly $800,000 penalty, Ohio State must pay $530,000 immediately, the Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday. Over the next three years, the Big Ten Conference will reduce OSU's portion of the conference's NCAA Tournament revenues by the amount still outstanding.
The school must also pay O'Brien damages he was awarded when a judge ruled that he was wrongfully fired. That amount could be in excess of $6 million, the Dispatch reports.
According to the newspaper, the school's athletic department has already paid $500,000 in legal fees related to the NCAA and O'Brien case. The school had only budgeted $150,000 for all legal costs this academic year.
Athletics Director Gene Smith said recently that the department has $7 million in reserves. But according to the Dispatch, that may be over $1 million short of what the school must pay out.
Along with the financial penalties, Ohio State must take down the 1999 Final Four banner which hangs
from the rafters in Value City Arena.
"The positives are closure," Ohio State athletic director Gene
Smith said in Indianapolis. "We're going into the Big Ten
tournament and we want our student-athletes to have the opportunity
to participate in this tournament understanding there won't be any
sanctions they have to deal with. ... They can play without that
The NCAA came down hard on O'Brien and former assistant coach
Paul Biancardi, now the head coach at Wright State. If O'Brien gets
a job at another college in the next five years, he and his new
school must appear before the NCAA's infractions committee to
discuss whether he will face additional limitations.
Biancardi was prohibited from recruiting until Oct. 1, 2007. If
he does, Wright State could face NCAA sanctions.
Ohio State had acknowledged eight of nine violations alleged by
the NCAA. The school fired O'Brien in June 2004 and held last
season's team out of the postseason to try to avoid any additional
penalties. The Buckeyes also limited their men's basketball
scholarships to 11 this season, instead of the allowed 13.
Other penalties include a public reprimand and a reduction in
on-campus visits by basketball recruits next year.
Seven violations involved the men's basketball program under
O'Brien. The other two involved women's basketball and football.
Messages seeking comment were left for O'Brien's attorney and
O'Brien was fired after he told then-athletic director Andy
Geiger that he gave a recruit $6,000 five years earlier.
Last month O'Brien won his lawsuit accusing the university of
wrongfully firing him. Ohio State could have to pay him as much as
O'Brien, the Buckeyes coach for seven years, said the loan of
his own money to Aleksandar Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 prospect from
Serbia, was not a violation because he knew Radojevic already had
forfeited his amateur status by playing professionally.
"The $6,000 payment was a blatant violation," NCAA infractions
committee vice chairwoman Josephine Potuto said in a news release.
"The circumstances surrounding this violation are especially
troubling because the former coaches concealed the cash payment
from administrators at the institution for over five years."
The payment became public amid a court battle over another
situation that led to three other violations.
Kathleen Salyers had sued two prominent boosters, saying they
failed to pay her the $1,000 a month they promised to feed, house
and support Savovic. Salyers also said she did schoolwork for
The NCAA said the player committed academic fraud and the
university did not adequately monitor his living situation.
In addition, five women's basketball players received free
dental work totaling $13,760 in violation of NCAA bylaws. Troy
Smith, the star quarterback in the Buckeyes' victories over
Michigan the past two years, received $500 from a booster. Smith
was suspended for the team's 2004 bowl game and the 2005 opener.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.