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Buckeyes president wants better player conduct on national level

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The new president at Ohio State
University, the nation's largest, says college athletics must be
fixed at the national level and he will have "zero tolerance" for
player misbehavior at Ohio State.

Gordon Gee disbanded the athletics department at Vanderbilt
University because he felt sports had become too separate from the
rest of the university. He doesn't believe the same approach would
work or is needed at Ohio State, but his philosophy is the same.

Ohio State, the national runner-up in football and men's
basketball last year, is emerging from a troubled period
highlighted by the conviction of former football star Maurice
Clarett last year on charges of aggravated robbery and carrying a
concealed weapon.

"I have zero tolerance for those who do not live by the rules
of the university or by the rules of the organizing body," Gee
said in an interview Friday. "It's very important for us to set a
very high standard for ourselves."

He said Ohio State won't have a bigger fan for players' on-field
performance. But, he added, "I'm going to be here to support you
to make sure that what we do off the field is consistent with the
philosophy and values of the university."

This institution is the leading institution in the country in terms of intercollegiate athletics. What a wonderful platform for us to win the national championship in everything and do it in a way that the president of the university can sleep at night.

Ohio State president Gordon Gee

Gee's approach fits the way things work now at Ohio State,
athletics director Gene Smith said Friday.

He said the department is already integrated with the university
in several ways, such as the provost's control of the
student-athlete counseling program.

"The focus should always be on what we're here for and that is
to educate and to help these young people get their degrees,"
Smith said. "There's no other priority higher than that."

Gee, who was also president of Ohio State from 1990 to 1997,
said athletics reform nationally must tie graduation rates with
scholarships.

"If you're graduating 8 percent of your students, you shouldn't
get as many scholarships or as much revenue as those who graduate
70 or 80 percent of your students," Gee said. "Right now what you
do is field semiprofessional teams and these kids are not
graduating."

Ohio State's overall student-athlete graduation rate is 80
percent, well above the 63 percent for all OSU students, according
to the most recent NCAA report that uses a four-year snapshot of
graduating classes.

The graduation rate for men's football is 55 percent and 38
percent for men's basketball.

Currently, the NCAA compiles an academic progress report that
measures eligibility and retention of student athletes for every
program at every Division I school.

Teams scoring less than 925 -- the equivalent of a 60 percent
graduation rate under the NCAA's formula -- receive warning letters
and could face harsher sanctions over the next three years. A
second offense during that time would result in a reduction of
practice time or games played. A third offense would result in
disqualification from NCAA tournaments.

Gee said Ohio State should use its reputation to press for
change.

"This institution is the leading institution in the country in
terms of intercollegiate athletics," he said. "What a wonderful
platform for us to win the national championship in everything and
do it in a way that the president of the university can sleep at
night."