OSU Trustees Talk Compliance Inquiry

One day after a committee discussed ways Ohio State and its athletics program can improve its compliance departments, the full university board of trustees discussed the issue Friday morning. Afterward, board member Robert Schottenstein reiterated OSU has a strong system in place but said changes could be on the way.

The Ohio State board of trustees spent about 15 minutes of its regularly scheduled meeting Friday morning discussing athletics compliance issues in the wake of the football scandal that has made headlines around the country, but board members said they do not see any major problems in the way things have been handled.

However, board member Robert H. Schottenstein said the school will go ahead on a 30-to-45-day investigation into whether athletics compliance should be moved from the umbrella of the athletic department.

"We're not broken," Schottenstein told reporters one day after the inquiry was discussed at a committee meeting. "The NCAA has been in here a number of times and claimed our athletic compliance process is outstanding.

"I just think we can get better, and we're going to be thoughtful and we're going to take our time."

Currently, athletics compliance is under the umbrella of the athletics department and director Gene Smith, though compliance director Doug Archie does also report to university general counsel.

The current inquiry, which is related to a six-month look into compliance issues across the university, will look to see if that set-up should be altered. Currently, the standard practice across Division I is for athletics compliance to be part of athletics, but Schottenstein said Ohio State could break that mold going forward.

"We think we need to look at the university structure to see if it needs to be changed," he said. "Our sense preliminarily is we think we need to make some changes, but we want to be thoughtful. If we had to make the decision today, we might come down that way, but we want to gather more data and really think about what is best."

The inquiry will also look into whether compliance handled the current situation properly. There have been multiple media reports that players received cars, tattoos and money impermissibly as benefits for being student-athletes, though many of those have gone unproven.

Six players, including since-departed quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended in December for selling memorabilia and receiving discounts on tattoos as part of a situation that eventually cost head coach Jim Tressel his job when he did not report what he knew about the violations to his superiors. A Sports Illustrated story in late May accused nine more of a similar scheme, though sources indicate many of those players have been cleared internally.

In addition, a report from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles earlier this month cleared two Columbus-area dealerships of improperly reporting the values of cars sold to OSU athletes and family, seeming to show the purchases were above board and in line with established market prices.

There have also been reports that Pryor was given money in exchange for signing memorabilia, though the allegations have been met with public denials.

"This is not because we had our eyes closed before," Schottenstein said. "It's just, 'Here's where we are, now what can we do to get better?' … We just want to make sure that our internal investigations were through and adequate and that we took all reasonable steps to look into things along the way. We believe that they were, but it's a process. We're not done."

Trustee member W.G. "Jerry" Jurgensen also caused a bit of a stir at the meeting with some comments about the culture around athletics that might have led to the violations, though it was unclear whether he was speaking exclusively about Ohio State or in more general terms.

"The cracks weren't really cracks of rules or procedures," Jurgensen said. "They were cracks in a value system, and I think that's what we have to go back and really take a hard look at. I think that's what we have to go back and really take a hard look at and ask all of ourselves, not just in the university and the state of Ohio but to some extent the United States of America, what is it we really value? … We have a lot of work in sort of soul-searching what is most important in the game of life."

While some could have interpreted the quotes as a criticism of the atmosphere at Ohio State, both Schottenstein and OSU president Dr. E. Gordon Gee did not seem fazed.

"I think Jerry might have been misunderstood," Schottenstein said. "I think his comments were more about some of the transcendent issues across our country … as opposed to some microassessment of Ohio State because I do not believe we have a value system problem at Ohio state."

"We're about making certain that our practices and procedures are in good stead," Gee said. "You heard today what our board said, which was the fact that we have a very strong compliance project and we are moving forward with that compliance effort in ways that make absolute sense to us. We have been through this very carefully and we feel very confident about our compliance process."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories