COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A lawsuit that led to the firing of Ohio
State men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien alleges that O'Brien and
an assistant knew that player Boban Savovic received regular
payments and classroom help, in defiance of NCAA rules.
Kathleen Salyers, who said she housed and fed the player for two
years, testified in a deposition in April that she spent thousands
of dollars on phone bills, car insurance and spending money for
Savovic, who was on the 1998-99 team that O'Brien led to the Final
Four. She said she often put the money in Savovic's medicine
The player's brother, Predrag Savovic, played for Hawaii from
Salyers said Ohio State assistant coach Paul Biancardi regularly
contacted her about Boban Savovic and often told her he was calling
at O'Brien's instruction.
"He [Biancardi] called and told me when taxes were due, when
Boban was flunking a class, to go and talk to the professor and
have his grade changed," Salyers said. "There were many, many
calls from Paul Biancardi requesting that I pay something for
Ohio State fired O'Brien on Tuesday after he admitted he gave
$6,000 in 1999 to Aleksandar Radojevic, a Buckeyes recruit who
never played for or attended Ohio State. Radojevic was ruled
ineligible by the NCAA for accepting money to play for a
professional team in Yugoslavia.
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger learned of the payment
because it was mentioned in Salyers' statement in her lawsuit.
NCAA rules prohibit student athletes from receiving any
financial help from anyone other than family members.
In the deposition, Salyers said she did not receive $1,000 per
month plus expenses she had been promised by Dan and Kim Roslovic,
Savovic's sponsors. Salyers sued the Ohio State boosters, seeking
$510,000 in expenses and damages.
She also acknowledged that her attorney asked O'Brien for money
to keep her story from becoming public.
An attorney asked Salyers in the deposition, "Kathy, have you
authorized your attorney to send a letter to OSU in which your
attorney offered to sell the book and movie rights to Jim O'Brien
or to an entity controlled by Jim O'Brien?"
She responded, "I authorized my attorney to send every letter
that he sent."
Biancardi, now head coach at Wright State, denied the
"I am disappointed and frustrated over the situation that has
evolved from a lawsuit in which I am not a party and have had no
involvement," he said in a statement released Wednesday. "These
statements are not supported by facts and are uncorroborated."
O'Brien's attorney, Jim Zeszutek, on Wednesday questioned
"Anyone who reads that transcript will walk away with a lot of
questions about her credibility," he said.
Zeszutek said the money to Radojevic was a loan, not a gift, and
came from O'Brien's bank account.
Radojevic's father had died and his mother was ill and couldn't
work. "Coach O'Brien decided he would help him out with a loan,"
Zeszutek said. "He figured Alek had already signed but might not
ever play because of academic questions and that the kid really
needed some help."
In her deposition, Salyers confirmed she kept more than $6,000 that Radojevic -- after he signed an NBA contract -- had given her to
repay O'Brien. She said Biancardi, on behalf of O'Brien, asked
Radojevic for the money back but that no one from Ohio State ever
stopped by for the money. She said several months later she applied
it to her mortgage payment.
Messages seeking comment were left for Salyers, Kim Roslovic and
their attorneys. Savovic's whereabouts were not known.
The Roslovics, since divorced, had befriended Savovic when he
came to Columbus. Savovic, from what used to be Yugoslavia, was not
a U.S. citizen and required someone to vouch for him in this
Salyers, who was the Roslovics' babysitter, said she agreed to
take in Savovic after receiving a call from Dan Roslovic, who said
he was calling from Biancardi's basketball office.
According to the lawsuit, the Roslovics said Savovic could no
longer stay with them because of NCAA rules. Salyers said Biancardi
told her she should lie and tell people that Savovic was living in
her house because he was a friend of her son's and they played
Salyers said she did most of Savovic's homework for three years
because he had difficulty with the English language.
Of the diploma he received from Ohio State, she says: "I was
pretty upset by the whole thing, I think, thinking what a diploma
would mean from Ohio State, that it's hardly worth the paper it's
Salyers estimates that she gave Boban Savovic $200 on 120
occasions -- a total of $24,000 -- frequently putting the cash in his
medicine chest because he was uncomfortable taking the money
directly from her hand.
"Boban had a lot of pride," Salyers testified. "I'd say,
'Boban, go comb your hair.' And he'd go in the bathroom and get the
money and come out and hug me."
Salyers provided receipts representing at least $1,600 she paid
in car insurance on Savovic's 1990 Acura Legend. She said she paid
at least $800 in phone bills and paid Savovic's international
taxes. She paid for his brother, Predrag, to fly in from Hawaii for
a visit and for Savovic's mother to receive medical treatment.
"It's just endless," Salyers said under oath. "It just goes
on and on and on."
Her deposition also alleged:
That Savovic and a booster had a sexual relationship.
That Savovic amassed a bill of more than $10,000 on a
long-distance telephone card that belonged to the father of New
York player agent Mark Cornstein. NCAA rules bar any contact
between agents and eligible players.
That Cornstein had access to Ohio State players and she had
seen him in the Buckeyes' locker room after games.
Cornstein did not answer a message left seeking comment.
Interim Ohio State coach Rick Boyages acknowledged Wednesday
that he knew Cornstein but declined further comment because of the
pending NCAA and Ohio State investigation.