Geiger Verbatim On Smith, Much More

OSU athletic director Andy Geiger met with media members Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest in the Troy Smith suspension situation. He clarified that Smith likely faces a two-game suspension, but could petition to have it reduced to one. He covered a number of topics and this is a must read as he explains many of the things that have and will happen.

In the wake of the report in The Columbus Dispatch naming a booster who provided Troy Smith extra benefits, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger met with media members.

Perhaps the biggest revelation is that Smith's OSU-imposed suspension would typically fall under the NCAA's edict of a 20 percent loss of competition. That would normally be two games. In fact, Smith possibly faces a two-game suspension, which would keep him out of the Alamo Bowl as well as the 2005 season opener against Miami (Ohio). But Geiger is hoping for a scenario where OSU petitions for Smith's reinstatement and the NCAA allows him to return for the 2005 season opener.

Here are excerpts from this afternoon's press conference with Geiger:

Reporter: What is the process when the university disassociates itself from a booster, as in a case like this?

Geiger: "Well, you write a letter describing what disassociation means. That means no tickets, no attendance at practice, no gifts, any of those kinds of things. There is no relationship. Disassociation is pretty much all inclusive."

Reporter: At today's press conference, Coach Tressel affirmed he was acquainted with Mr. Baker. There was no more elaboration from him about that. Have you talked to Coach Tressel about his relationship with this guy? Is it just a passing acquaintance? How would you characterize it?

Geiger: "They are not close. I think it is somebody he has met. I don't know where Mr. Baker went to school. It was not Ohio State."

Reporter: How was Antonio Pittman involved in this?

Geiger: "We talked to the people who reported to us the incident with Troy. Antonio went the first time when he and Troy looked at the possibility of working there, but Antonio did not go back."

Reporter: Are you going to reexamine the Chris Gamble situation with Mr. Baker or Poly-Care?

Geiger: "We're pretty sure that checked out the way it was supposed to check out, but we'll take a look at that. She (compliance officer Heather Lyke) went through that pretty thoroughly."

Reporter: Can you touch on the dilemma you are in as an athletic director. You need boosters to contribute. You may need to do things to encourage boosters to contribute …

Geiger: "They don't get any closer to our players than the 2,000 people who showed up at City Center to do autographs. Access to the team is clearly arm's length. What happens with some people is they develop relationships away from practice and away from the university. Those are hard to monitor, the proper relationship.

"If somebody leases a suite in the stadium, one of the provisions in the contract is following and obeying NCAA rules. They are given in the contract what those rules are."

Reporter: Are you in a tenuous situation where you're trying to get people to contribute, but you increase the odds of these types of things happening?

Geiger: "I have never been anyplace – ever – where we did not encourage donors to the program, particularly donors who endowed scholarships, to get to know the student-athletes at least on a passing manner. We're proud of our student-athletes. We don't put them in a closet and hide them. We're proud of our donors and almost everybody does it perfectly. They do it exactly right.

"When we get to the point where we have to buy the (prison) building down in Orient and house the team there and let them out for only certain things and transport them … we can't get there. That's not what we need to do. I think that we do a pretty thorough job of compliance education. Obviously, we need to make it a mania and have such zeal that everything is completely unmistakable.

"But if somebody is going to deliberately break the rule, I confess to you that I feel defenseless with regard to that. I don't know how else to say it and that's the hardest part of this. But the student has responsibility. That's why the student is not here to play. There has to be accountability on the side of the student and that's not a mystery."

Reporter: Is the idea of Troy Smith walking in there and picking up an envelope and walking out, does that make you wonder if there is more credence to what Maurice (Clarett) was talking about with the high-pay, no-work jobs?

Geiger: "I'm not sure that I think that everything Maurice said lacked credence. What wasn't there was what is there now. We have an example of something that has happened. Do I think it is systemic or widespread? I have no evidence of that. This came to us."

Reporter: A few years ago, UCLA had a running back (DeShawn Foster) who was held out of the last three games after taking extra benefits. I have no idea how his case compares to Troy Smith's case, but do you have any idea that this could carry over to 2005?

Geiger: "It's a two-game set. It's 20 percent of the season. That's probably what the penalty is. We can probably try to appeal it down, but we haven't decided if we are going to do that yet. (Two games) is prescribed. The institution declares the student ineligible, then applies to the NCAA for reinstatement.

"He (Smith) needs to make restitution. Then, we have to decide if we will accept the two-game or try to mitigate with the fact he missed the bowl game and the whole trip, we haven't crossed that bridge yet."

Reporter: So the 2005 season opener is a possibility, but you have not decided that yet?

Geiger: "Yes, it's a possibility."

Reporter: Can you say how much money Troy received?

Geiger: "No, not right now."

Reporter: Does the amount vary with the penalty?

Geiger: "The amount of money is within the range of the 20 percent (suspension). I think it's two games. We haven't decided where to go with it yet."

Reporter: Whatever penalty he gets, would he be able to practice?

Geiger: "Yes, he would be able to practice (spring and fall) and would keep his scholarship."

Reporter: Because Mr. Baker has a relationship with the university, does that increase the likelihood of a lack of institutional control?

Geiger: "I don't think so."

Reporter: As an athletic director, what is the most frustrating part of this?

Geiger: "Just that we have a pretty active compliance culture. We have four full-time lawyers on staff. They work pretty hard. I think that all of us preach trying to do this the right way. I would have thought that the amount of publiclity over the last two years over benefits and eligibility and non-eligibility and all those kind of things pertaining to a certain student-athlete would have been an incredible education for the student-athlete community and the fans.

"And to have this happen is … very, very frustrating.

"I think there are those who, for whatever reason, want some sort of control or proprietorship or ownership or what have you with regard to a particular student-athlete and the reasons for that are kind scary.

"We jumped on this pretty fast. This is not trifling.

"I think Troy is a good kid who made a mistake and probably had legitimate need and was stretched and stressed. But it's the top of a slippery and steep slope and I think that we have nipped it.

"Once again, if anybody in the world – within the sound of our voices – misunderstands I would be stunned. But I've been stunned before."

Reporter: Your retirement is pretty close. You've made that pretty clear …

Geiger: "I'll be 66 in March. I've been married to that girl (Eleanor) for 42 years and I'm ready for a date."

Reporter: Will any of this impact when that happens?

Geiger: "No, we've got this and we've got to get through the basketball stuff that is out there. We've got to get through all of that. We'll work our way through that, but I will reserve the opportunity to step down at some point. I've been preaching thist stuff for some time. This is my 11th year at Ohio State. I think we have accomplished a whole lot.

"There comes a time when I think a new voice and a different look is very good for the university. A change could be very good for me. I don't feel pressure to step down or anything like that. I'm a pretty proud guy. I believe in athletics with all my heart and soul. It's not taking the easy way to have 35 sports and to push it as hard as we push it. We work hard at it. When it doesn't go well, it's hard. It's frustrating. We just have to be better.

"I don't think anybody is perfect. I don't think the guys we're playing this week – I'm throwing any stones at them – but they don't have everybody. I read the papers and the transactions and we're all struggling. I talk to my colleagues and the empathy I hear is, `Oh God, it's amazing in this world.' "

Reporter: I don't want to misunderstand, but will you stay on and see the whole basketball thing through?

Geiger: "We'll see how that goes. But again, I don't want to be pressed on time. I intend to be strong and do a good job right straight through my career. If that means it's July 30, 2006, (when his contract expires) that's what I'll do. If it's sooner, that's what I'll do."

Reporter: With this latest thing is there any of this that makes you question Jim Tressel's involvement or is he 100 percent clear in this?

Geiger: "No, I think he's done well. Guys, we reported, I think the team that went to the first Outback Bowl (in 2000) had a 14 percent graduation rate. I think that was the number. This group is operating with a 53 percent rate. We may have the most Academic All-Big Ten picks. We have more than 40 3.0 GPA guys. We had a pretty good fall quarter academically.

"There are a lot of good things going on in the program, the right messages and the right values – all of those kinds of things … We have had some individual incidents. But the demeanor of the team and the behavior of the team on the bowl trip and those kinds of things is positive, it's strong, it's good. Guys are on schedule to graduate.

"Our graduation rate will probably dip a little bit next year with 14 guys drafted to the NFL (last year). They will eventually finish, most of those guys, but not in the time the (NCAA) measures. I'm proud of that and that's good. That's to Jim Tressel's credit."

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