NCAA reduces O'Brien's penalty to two years

Updated: May 9, 2007, 9:43 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NCAA on Wednesday reduced the penalty period against former Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien from five years to two, limiting his ability to seek athletic employment at another NCAA school during that time.

The reduction follows the NCAA's decision last month to throw out violations that included accusations O'Brien improperly gave $6,000 to a recruit. The group dismissed three violations and part of a fourth because the NCAA's enforcement staff missed by two days a 2005 deadline for filing the charges.

The appeals committee upheld other violations involving O'Brien, including improper benefits awarded to Boban Savovic, a member of the Buckeyes' Final Four team in 1999.

Ohio State has said O'Brien's firing in 2004 -- after he revealed the loan to recruit Aleksandar Radojevic -- was valid because the coach violated his contract.

O'Brien still could seek work as a university basketball coach during the penalty period, which lasts until May 8, 2009. But he would first have to appear before the NCAA infractions committee, which set the penalty, to allow it "to consider whether the coach's athletically related duties should be limited," an NCAA statement said.

O'Brien's lawyers have already filed an appeal to the NCAA's appeals committee, attorney Brian Murphy said Wednesday. O'Brien had hoped the infractions committee would completely drop the penalty period, he said.

"I'm confident that this mistake of theirs will be fixed once again by the appeals committee," Murphy said.

O'Brien has always contended that his $6,000 payment to Radojevic was a minor violation, if a violation at all, because Radojevic was subsequently found to be a professional and never enrolled at or played for Ohio State.

O'Brien sued Ohio State for his firing and won $2.2 million plus interest from the university in August. The case has been appealed and the university has not paid him any money.

Ohio State received three years' NCAA probation for the violations and was forced to take down its 1999 Final Four banner from Value City Arena and repay the NCAA around $800,000, the money it received for its NCAA tournament appearances while Savovic was on the team.

Ohio State (35-4) set a school record for victories this season while advancing to the national championship game, where it lost to defending champion Florida. Only one player from that team, Ivan Harris, played for O'Brien; neither he nor any of the current players or coaches were involved in the violations.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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