COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Eighteen universities and the Big Ten,
Pacific-10 and Big 12 conferences filed a brief Monday in state
appeals court supporting Ohio State in its bid to overturn a $2.4
million award to former men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien.
The universities and conferences argue the Ohio Court of Claims'
ruling earlier this year that Ohio State improperly fired O'Brien
limits their ability to comply with NCAA rules and discipline
employees who violate them.
Judge Joseph Clark said the university had to pay O'Brien -- even
though he broke NCAA bylaws by giving $6,000 to a recruit -- because
it did not follow the terms of O'Brien's contract when firing him
"NCAA member institutions must now choose between taking
meaningful action to correct NCAA rules violations and avoid
further violations, and avoiding contract damages to a coach who
has shown a blatant disregard for the best interests of the
institution,'' the colleges and conferences argue in the brief.
Joseph Murray, O'Brien's attorney, said he had not yet seen the
brief, or one also filed Monday by the university.
"I can't imagine why Ohio State would need the support of any
other university,'' he said.
Ohio State appealed the decision to the 10th Ohio District Court
of Appeals in September. The university said in its filing Monday
that Clark was wrong in ruling that the loan was not a major
violation of O'Brien's contract and that the judge should have
taken into account evidence gathered after the coach's firing.
Murray said O'Brien also filed an appeal Monday, seeking an
additional $1.3 million based on what Ohio State promised him in
his employment contract.
O'Brien, who coached the Buckeyes for seven years and took them
to the Final Four in 1999, was fired after revealing to
then-athletic director Andy Geiger that he had given the money to
Aleksandar Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 Serbian prospect who never played
for the Buckeyes.
An NCAA investigation that followed resulted in three years of
probation for Ohio State. The NCAA ruled in March the university
had to erase all references to its trip to the Final Four and repay
some $800,000 in tournament revenue for using an ineligible player
from 1998-2002 while O'Brien was coach.
The University of Michigan submitted the brief. Other supporters
include the universities of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Notre Dame,
Wisconsin, Arizona, Southern California, Arkansas, Mississippi and
Texas as well as Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State,
Purdue, Arizona State and Stanford universities.