OSU: One-Year Basketball Postseason Ban Imposed

OSU President Karen Holbrook and athletic director Andy Geiger announced the university has self-imposed a one-year postseason ban for men's basketball. The sanctions relate solely back to former coach Jim O'Brien's admission that he gave humanitarian aid to a recruit.

Ohio State President Karen Holbrook and athletic director Andy Geiger conducted a press conference this afternoon to announce that the university has self-imposed a one-year postseason ban for the men's basketball program.

The ban stems from former coach Jim O'Brien's admission that he provided one-time recruit Aleksandar Radojevic more than $6,000 in humanitarian aid for his family in wartorn Serbia. O'Brien was fired by the school in June after admitting he made that payment to Radojevic sometime in 1999.

Allegations remain from a civil suit regarding improper benefits received by former OSU guard Boban Savovic, who played with the Buckeyes from 1999-2002. Those allegations -- and any others that may surface -- were not covered as part of today's sanctions.

Ohio State, which is 5-2 this season under new head coach Thad Matta, will still be eligible for the Big Ten tournament, set for March 10-13 in Chicago. But the Buckeyes would not be eligible for either the NCAA or NIT tournaments.

School officials say they imposed this ban so the school can begin serving sanctions as soon as possible and so Matta can recruit prospective student-athletes with this in mind. However, they cautioned that the NCAA may impose stricter sanctions when it is through with its investigation.

"The investigation is ongoing," Holbrook said. "There are several interviews that must still take place. It is likely the university will announce further self-imposed sanctions when the investigation is complete."

The school provided several precedent cases. The University of Michigan faced sanctions when it was shown a booster paid several players more than $600,000 in cash. Among other things, UM served a one-year self-imposed postseason ban. The NCAA imposed a second year of sanctions, but the school successfully appealed to have that second year lifted.

As a result of these sanctions, the school has given Matta a one-year contract extension. His original deal was a seven-year contract. That contract will now run through the 2011-12 season.

"Because we have self imposed a ban against postseason play in 2004-05, we have granted Coach Matta a one-year contract extension," Geiger said. "It is intended to show our confidence and appreciation for the manner in which he and his staff have dedicated themselves to Ohio State. The one-year extension will add an opportunity for postseason play lost this season.

"I want to make it perfectly clear that Thad Matta and his staff had nothing to do in any way with the activities that have led us to impose sanctions against our program," Geiger said. "We are very pleased with their efforts with the Ohio State men's basketball team since their arrival in Columbus."

Here are excerpts from the press conference:

GEIGER: We are not thrilled to be telling you about this today and Coach Matta will be informing his team after practice today that we are taking ourselves out of consideration for post-season play at the end of this current basketball season. We feel that this action is imperative, delaying this decision to later in the year would likely render it meaningless. It is a meaningful decision at this time.

We felt it very, very important that we establish this step so that our basketball staff and basketball program can move forward with their recruiting and other activities that we have.

The investigations are ongoing. Ohio State is interviewing and the NCAA is interviewing. Often we are doing it jointly, sometimes separately. We do not anticipate closure on this issue for some time. It is a long and slow process. When we feel we have enough facts and we agree with the NCAA on where we are, we will certainly be back to impose further penalties. We are doing this in a cooperative way with the NCAA and, as I say, the activities are ongoing.

It is further complicated by legal action that still must take place which you all generally pretty much know about and, therefore, limits us in terms of the numbers of comments and kinds of comments that we're going to be able to make. With that, we will open this up for questions.

REPORTER: On the day that Thad Matta was hired, you had said at that time that you did not think there would be any severe penalties against current players who are on the roster. At some point obviously that had to have changed for you; at what point was that?

GEIGER: We have been studying the very precedence that I referred to. I would reference, for example, the Michigan case that people in this conference are familiar with. It is inevitable that there would be a postseason ban and we chose to make that decision right now and withdraw this team from postseason consideration.

REPORTER: And based on this precedence, you are certain you will have to come back with additional penalties, that this will not be the end of it then?

GEIGER: Well, I think the facts have to be found, but we don't think this is likely the end of it.

REPORTER: Do you anticipate being able to conclude the NCAA investigation in advance of the conclusion of the (Kathleen Salyers) court case that you referred to or because of subpoena powers and …

GEIGER: I hope so. I hope so, and it's just a matter of -- there are things that are issues with the law that don't have anything to do with the NCAA and there are things that overlap and we hope to get the overlapping things decided a bit earlier.

REPORTER: Why now? Why are you enacting this now?

GEIGER: So that our team can move forward with its plans and understand they know exactly what their situation is and the coaches can recruit, knowing what they can tell the recruits, that sort of thing.

REPORTER: You mentioned recruiting, how this affects recruiting. If you only have announced the postseason ban for this season, it would not affect anybody that's coming into the program after that, so how would what you've announced today, how would this impact recruiting at all?

GEIGER: We're fairly confident that one season is about where this case is and we want to make sure that we have that established as this season for the very reason that you asked the question.

REPORTER: Other than NCAA precedent, have they impacted this decision at all today? I mean, did they suggest that you come forward with this today or not necessarily today, but that you make the decision …

GEIGER: In the course of these kinds of things, you compare notes with the NCAA and you begin to put together a possible list of sanctions.

REPORTER: Has the Big Ten -- you've spoken, I'm sure, with the Big Ten, are they agreeable to letting you participate in the Big Ten tournament?

GEIGER: As you have witnessed, the Big Ten policy is that teams that are in a situation like ours participate in the Big Ten tournament. If our team should win the Big Ten tournament, we simply would not have an automatic qualifier.

REPORTER: Would the announcement of the decision today, would it have been impacted at all if the team were undefeated or had not lost a couple games?

GEIGER: It would not be impacted. That's exactly why we're doing it as early in the season as we can.

REPORTER: Did the Coach's contract have an automatic clause in it that said if there was prohibition from …

GEIGER: It does not.

REPORTER: Was that part of your negotiation when you hired him that should there be …

GEIGER: We talked about it, and it has been part of discussions that we have. The actual final agreement on the contracts have not been signed yet, but we're getting close, but the coach and I concur wholeheartedly that this is the right way to handle it.

REPORTER: Are the financial terms of that added year the same as the previous?

GEIGER: They would be consistent with what the rest of the contract says.

REPORTER: Andy, is there any chance at all that the Big Ten championship and the Final Four will be stripped from the records?

GEIGER: I can't comment, Todd, on any -- nor do I want to speculate on anything that's coming down the road.

REPORTER: Dr. Holbrook, could you give us the university president's perspective on the larger picture here with Ohio State athletics and the hits you've taken nationally, not only in this matter we're discussing today, with the Jim O'Brien lawsuit, with the publication of articles on ESPN, and airing of stories on ESPN networks, just your perspective of how this has impacted the Ohio State University community, whether you're troubled by this, whether you feel things are in order in your athletic department, just give us your perspective.

HOLBROOK: You've asked two questions. Let me answer the second one, do I feel things are in order in our athletics program. That one I can answer with an unqualified I do feel that our athletics program is one that is built around integrity, built around solid values, built around a solid system of checks and balances and oversight of the program. I am confident that the Ohio State program is, as I said, committed to maintaining an academically sound, ethical, and successful program.

Am I troubled by what is out there? Absolutely. Every time you have this kind of information in the press and you have these kinds of articles that go nationwide and even beyond that, it says something about your university. As I said this morning in The Dispatch, people believe what they read unless it's about them. And the unfortunate thing is, when these articles are out there, people look at them, and whether they find out that they're not true in the end, it still sticks in their minds.

In an institution like this where we want to be known for our quality athletic program as well as our quality academics program, whenever you have something like this that sticks in people's minds, it is very unfortunate for the institution. We will overcome it. We'll go beyond it and we will not let it deter where we're going and the kind of reputation that we have. But it is unfortunate, there's just no way around it.

REPORTER: One of the concerns that you might have is that this more or less makes the team members have -- they're left with very little incentive for the rest of the year, is that a major concern? They're playing for a championship that, in fact …

GEIGER: Well, I would dispute that. I would think having the best team that they can have is an incentive. I think trying to prove that they could have gone had they been allowed to would be a motivating force. In the time that I've gotten to know Thad Matta, I don't think he's going to let them become passive. It's not his way of doing things. He's a great teacher of the game and has very high standards as to how the game is played and I expect that he will lead us, he and the guys on the team will lead us to a pretty darn good season.

REPORTER: Is it the Ohio State position that you characterize the process you're in with the NCAA, would you characterize that as a major violations investigation?

GEIGER: I would. I would. I think the issue that we're talking about today is in that category. I don't think we'd be doing what we're doing if it was secondary.

REPORTER: Did you seek the NCAA approval of the sanctions before you announced it?

GEIGER: No. We told them, though.

REPORTER: Andy, real quickly, right after you started looking at the football thing again, you had a pretty quick update after that, what is the update since then on the little investigation they're doing concerning Maurice Clarett allegations, et cetera?

GEIGER: Tim, same answer. I can't talk about specifics with regard to investigations, but other than to say that vigorous attention is being paid to that, some by the NCAA, more by us at this point.

REPORTER: Is Maurice Clarett trying to reconcile with the university?

GEIGER: I think I've responded to that and, again, I can't get into the details of that relationship or that investigation at this point.

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