School self-imposes '05 sanction

Updated: December 9, 2004, 11:32 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State imposed a one-year ban on postseason play by its men's basketball team in response to $6,000 the university said former coach Jim O'Brien gave a recruit who never played for the school.

"It's too bad. It's a shame. I'm sick about it. I hate it," athletic director Andy Geiger said Thursday, calling it a major violation of NCAA bylaws.

Ohio State president Karen Holbrook said the firing of O'Brien on June 8 was the first step in appeasing NCAA investigators. She and Geiger said more penalties may be coming.

"It doesn't mean we're finished, that there's not other stuff we're looking at," Geiger said.

O'Brien, who had coached the Buckeyes for seven seasons, was fired six weeks after he spoke with Geiger about the payment. During their conversation, Geiger said O'Brien admitted he gave $6,000 to recruit Aleksandar Radojevic in 1999.

Radojevic never played for Ohio State. He was deemed ineligible by the NCAA before he enrolled because he had accepted money to play basketball in his native Yugoslavia.

O'Brien, 14-16 in his final year with the Buckeyes, has sued Ohio State for at least $3.4 million, claiming he was fired improperly. In a statement, he hinted that there were other problems in the basketball program unrelated to what he termed a "loan" to Radojevic's mother.

"Ohio State has jumped the gun once again," O'Brien said Thursday in a statement. "I was sorry to learn that the university opted to sacrifice the senior season of many fine young student-athletes rather than allow the NCAA to consider and evaluate all of the relevant facts.

"I believe the university is mistaken in its impression that the NCAA would sanction it on account of conduct that occurred six years ago. I believe that as the whole story comes out, it will become clear that the university took the action of today because of other conduct for which I was not responsible."

The postseason ban is just the latest in a series of blows to Ohio State athletics over the past six months.

O'Brien's alleged payment became known after a Columbus woman sued her former employers for expenses she said she incurred for housing, feeding and giving spending money to another Ohio State basketball player from Yugoslavia, Boban Savovic. That lawsuit is expected to be heard next summer.

Former running back Maurice Clarett, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship, has accused coach Jim Tressel of setting him up with cars, boosters of providing summer no-show jobs and Ohio State professors of giving breaks to football players. Tressel and Ohio State officials have denied the accusations.

Thad Matta, hired July 7 to take O'Brien's place, has led Ohio State to a 6-2 record this season. He met with players Thursday afternoon to tell them of the ban.

"The shame of it is that our players had nothing to do with it," Matta said. "They're being penalized for a crime they did not commit."

The Buckeyes have three seniors: Tony Stockman, who said he transferred from Clemson three years ago to play in the NCAA tournament, along with Matt Marinchick and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham.

The ban includes NCAA and NIT bids, but the Buckeyes will be permitted to play for the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.

Geiger announced that Matta's original seven-year contract will be extended one more year, through the 2011-2012 season, and said it will be easier to accept penalties now rather than waiting.

"It could be this year, next year, the year after," he said. "We chose to do it this year. Get it over with."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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