Matta Reacts To Sanctions

OSU head men's basketball coach Thad Matta met with the media a short time ago to discuss the self-imposed postseason ban enforced by the university. Dave Biddle has a wrap-up.

An emotional Thad Matta met with reporters Thursday, moments after informing his team that it was banned from postseason play this year.

"I obviously don't have a lot to say right now," Matta said. "I will say this: I knew coming in here that there were some issues and some problems. And, as I told Andy (Geiger), I'm 100 percent with Ohio State in this decision.

"I think the shame of it is, for our players, they had nothing to do with it. They're being penalized for a crime they did not commit. But, I think that's part of life. I think that's part of how things go. But, Ohio State has my support in this. It is unfortunate, but it's something that for our guys might be hard to understand, because they weren't involved in it. It's one of those things that, as a team, we have to get through.

"The season is definitely not over and as I told the players, the hardest thing for me personally and my staff, is, quite honestly, we've fallen in love with this team. They have done everything that has been asked of them. They've worked extremely hard. Probably the most coachable basketball team that I've ever been a part of. And to give them this news is tough. But I do think, knowing our guys, my staff, myself, we will rally and we will continue to compete with great intensity. And every day we take the court, or every night we take the court, for a practice or game, we want to produce the best damn basketball team that Ohio State can have this year, and that's not going to change."

It was a dark day for the entire program - but especially for seniors Tony Stockman, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham and Matt Marinchick. Stockman will never get to play in an NCAA Tournament.

"It's difficult, but I think everybody in this room - including myself and the players - knew something was going to happen," Matta said. "We just didn't know what or when. The hard part is for Tony, Matt and Brandon, because their chances of playing in postseason play has been stripped."

Matta says his players weren't "angry" when told of the news, they were more disappointed.

"They're a little bit confused, as 18-22 year-olds might be of, ‘Hey, we didn't do anything.' When I told them I needed to talk to them in the locker room - which I don't do very often - they all were kind of like ‘Uh, oh.' But I'll tell you this about those guys: they're very mature and the guys that stepped to the forefront I think are leaders. I feel very comfortable with the leadership on this team," Matta said.

When Matta was hired, Geiger adamantly claimed that no major sanctions would be handed down by the NCAA. He said the current players and coaches would not be affected. However, obviously something changed.

"Honestly, I never heard that," Matta said. "I knew that things could go down when we got here. I honestly never heard Andy say that the current team wouldn't be punished."

Although he was disappointed in the sanctions, Matta knows it's better to get this out of the way now. Better sooner, than later.

"No question, no question," Matta said. "I really mean this: this affects this team, but we will not let this affect the future of Ohio State basketball. It does not affect us recruiting. To me, it does not affect the future of this program and getting it out now, it takes away the doubt. The players that we are bringing in will not be affected by this.

"I kind of go back to the three seniors. Those are the guys that were hit the hardest today. But, as we met as a staff, we're going to continue to move forward. I'm going recruiting tonight. The vision, the mission of this program… as I told the staff, I'm a very positive person. This is a huge negative, but, hey, we've got to go. I know for me personally and my staff, the greatest two hours of our day is in the gymnasium teaching the game of basketball. So, I don't think it's going to hold us back."

Now, the team is focused on doing well in the Big Ten regular season and Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes want to prove they would have been good enough to make the NCAA Tournament if they were allowed in. The Big Ten Tournament now becomes their de-facto March Madness.

"Yes, it really does," Matta said. "And that was brought up in the locker room. It becomes sort of the battle cry, if you will, that we will still have the opportunity and we'll get to play in March. That becomes our postseason play right there."

Geiger and OSU president Karen Holbrook hinted that more sanctions could be forthcoming, after the NCAA completes its investigation.

"You know, honestly, I don't know," Matta said. "I don't think I'm able to comment on that because of the legality of it all."

Yes, Geiger and Holbrook might have made that claim just to be safe. Geiger already got egg on his face once saying that the 2004-05 team would not be penalized.

But how can Matta assure recruits that the situation has been resolved if there is still the chance of more sanctions?

"For me personally, I was shown case studies of (sanctioned) programs and what they've done and what they received and I feel extremely confident that one year ban of postseason play will get that done," Matta said.

Matta received a one-year extension to his contract because of the sanctions. He is now locked up through 2012.

"That was initiated (by Geiger)," Matta said. "It was up in the air how we were going to address that. Personally for me, I'm honored that Ohio State would do that. It shows me personally the support and I think it shows the future of Ohio State basketball. And I think that was a tremendous statement by Andy and Dr. Holbrook."

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