Suit leading to O'Brien's firing targets others

Updated: June 27, 2004, 7:39 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The woman at the center of the lawsuit that led to the firing of Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said Friday that assistant coach Paul Biancardi directed her to ask professors to change a former player's grades.

A Columbus child-care provider, Kathleen Salyers, is suing her former employers, Dan and Kim Roslovic, for more than $600,000, charging that they promised to pay her $1,000 a month plus expenses to let Buckeyes player Boban Savovic live in her home.

The lawsuit also alleges that O'Brien gave $6,800 to Ohio State recruit Aleksandar Radojevic in 1999. O'Brien was fired June 8 by athletic director Andy Geiger after admitting he gave the money to Radojevic, who never enrolled in school or played for the Buckeyes.

"Paul called me and told me that he was made aware through the academic office that Boban had a failing grade and he would lose his scholarship and he would be sent home," Salyers told The Associated Press on Friday. "I knew the situation with war, conflict, whatever you want to call it at the time."

Biancardi told Salyers that Savovic would go to prison and he would be beaten if he was sent back home to war-torn Yugoslavia, she said.

"He said, 'Kathleen, imagine, Boban playing basketball in the United States and he's considered a draft dodger in his country.' It was just very frightening," Salyers said.

Jim Zeszutek, a Pittsburgh attorney for O'Brien and Biancardi, disputed Salyers' allegations.

"Neither Coach O'Brien nor Coach Biancardi instructed, recommended, suggested or even made any implication she should talk to any professors on behalf of Boban or any student-athlete," he said.

Zeszutek said Biancardi was not permitted to respond to charges made against him by Salyers because of the ongoing NCAA investigation. He also said O'Brien has not been asked to meet with investigators.

In a deposition, Salyers said Savovic came to Ohio State unable to speak or read English. She alleges, as does Kim Roslovic in a separate deposition, that they did classwork for Savovic.

Biancardi has denied he oversaw payments, grade changes or other NCAA and university violations while a coach at Ohio State under O'Brien. He is in his second season as head coach at Wright State.

The Columbus Dispatch was the first to report details on the grade changes on Friday.

Asked if Biancardi gave her a line of talking points with the professor, Salyers said that he did.

"I was doing all the talking, I don't think I gave them much of a chance to say anything," she said of the meeting with the professor, who she declined to identify. "And Boban was very quiet. It was very difficult actually because I believed everything I was telling him [the professor] to be the truth. He just ultimately said that to check and the grade would be changed."

The F was changed to a D the next day.

Salyers also said she asked another professor, who she also did not identify, over the phone to change another grade.

"He was a little reluctant but ultimately did it," she said.

Again, the grade was changed from an F to a D and Savovic maintained his eligibility.

Salyers said she did not believe the professors changed the grades because Savovic was a basketball player, but because of the conditions in Yugoslavia and his status as a student that allowed him to remain in this country.

Salyers said she was convinced O'Brien knew of most of her actions on behalf of Savovic, who lived with her from June 1998 to July 2000.

Asked if she knew O'Brien was aware of everything Biancardi and she discussed, she said, "First-hand knowledge, I don't know. I just know that Paul ... would refer to Jim O'Brien as his boss."

She said Biancardi made it clear that he was discussing Savovic's living arrangements and other matters with O'Brien.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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