Wright State to stand behind embattled coach

Updated: March 10, 2006, 7:13 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Paul Biancardi was yanked off the recruiting road Friday after the NCAA issued a stern penalty against the Wright State coach.

The NCAA infractions committee slapped a recruiting ban on Biancardi until Oct. 1, 2007, which obviously makes recruiting for a mid-to-low major program like Wright State seem impossible.

Still, Wright State is sticking by Biancardi, a former Ohio State assistant coach, and hasn't shown any signs of firing him.

In a statement released by the school, athletic director Mike Cusack said the school will cooperate with the investigation based on the allegations against Biancardi while he was employed at Ohio State. Cusack said, "I support coach Biancardi, who has denied all allegations. … Wright State University runs an exemplary athletics program that abides by all NCAA regulations. Our primary concern is and always will be the welfare of our student athletes.

The NCAA public infractions report contains serious allegations concerning Coach Biancardi during his employment with Ohio State University. We take these allegations seriously. We will determine our future actions after carefully reviewing the report that we just received."

It continued, "Wright State University is in full compliance with all NCAA regulations. In February 2004, the NCAA recertified WSU athletics for 10 years. During his time at Wright State Coach Biancardi has upheld WSU's high standards for its athletic program."

Biancardi, in the same release from the school, said the statements that came out of a lawsuit related to the case weren't "supported by facts and are uncorroborated. I look forward to answering the allegations that have been made against me and the charges against the The Ohio State University men's basketball program."

Biancardi's lawyer Jim Zeszutek told ESPN.com that he wasn't sure if Biancardi would appeal the ruling. Either way, Wright State has a few tough decisions.

If Biancardi doesn't appeal then Wright State will have to make a decision on whether to keep him. Remember, he is barred from all recruiting activities, including phone calls and even talking to a recruit on campus. His assistants can still recruit but he can't do a thing. If he appeals and wins then Wright State can keep him; but if he appeals and loses then the school would have to make another decision. It is Biancardi who must appeal, not Wright State, since the violations weren't at Wright State.

Biancardi is 42-44 in three seasons at Wright State. He was 13-15 overall, 8-8 in the Horizon League this season.

Meanwhile, former Ohio State head coach Jim O'Brien was essentially grouped in with other coaches who received multi-year show cause penalties like former Cal coach Todd Bozeman and former Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who were nationally vilified for what were considered major penalties of paying a player and tuition, respectively.

O'Brien, who said he would appeal his five-year show cause, doesn't agree that he should be lumped into a group of coaches who have been issued a Scarlet Letter by the NCAA. The show cause essentially means another school has to go in front of the infractions committee and show how they would monitor the scarred coach if they chose to hire him. O'Brien said he wouldn't put another school through that process.

Still, he's not pleased with being labeled essentially a cheater.

"I think it's excessive," O'Brien said on a conference call Friday. "I don't feel what I did fits what some of the other people did. We've never cheated. We've never paid a nickel for a kid to come to a place we've been. I know what I did [paid $6,000-plus to a recruit that ended up not playing at Ohio State because he turned pro] and why I did it."

O'Brien did win his lawsuit against Ohio State last month to get back money after he was fired in June of 2004 prior to an NCAA investigation. A trial on damages is set for April 12-13 in Columbus.

O'Brien said he was disappointed that other players from his tenure at Ohio State were hurt by the ruling with banners taken down from four NCAA berths, including the 1999 Final Four. But he was quick to say that the ruling Friday shouldn't take away from what has been a banner season for the Buckeyes. He said he would be cheering for them in the Big Ten tournament and NCAAs.

Ohio State gave itself a postseason ban a year ago, another indication that schools continue to benefit from taking their own course of action. The ruling also means the Buckeyes will get its star recruiting class, led by the top player in the class of 2006 in Lawrence North (Ind.) center Greg Oden, for next season, as planned, since there is no more postseason ban. The next decision will be whether or not Biancardi still has a job at Wright State.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com