<
>

AD claims violation was an honest mistake

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NCAA has reinstated 10 Ohio State
football players who were ruled ineligible by the university last
week for signing autographs at a health care group's convention in
May, according to a published report.

The players, who were allowed to practice but could have missed
at least one game, were ruled ineligible by the school on the day
it disclosed the violations to the NCAA, according to The Columbus
Dispatch.

The NCAA reinstated the players after determining that
mitigating circumstances contributed to the violations, athletic
director Andy Geiger said. He described the violation as an honest mistake.

"Everybody is eligible," Geiger told the newspaper. "We were
confident that was how (the NCAA) would rule because they already
had given us a verbal indication that would be the case."

Geiger confirmed that the group included some prominent players,
including two-way starter Chris Gamble, but not tailback Maurice
Clarett. He declined to list names.

A message requesting comment was left with the NCAA at its
headquarters number in Indianapolis. A message also was left for
Geiger at his home number.

The players were paid an hourly salary for working at a booth
operated by a central Ohio health care company at the Ohio Health
Care Association's convention May 5-8 in Columbus.

Part of the work included signing autographs for people at the
convention, said Heather Lyke, Ohio State's associate athletic
director in charge of compliance.

"The issue is, what work were they getting paid to perform?"
Lyke said. "Simply signing autographs is impermissible. You can't
get paid based on the value you bring to a company based on your
reputation as a student-athlete. Other people in the company
weren't there signing autographs."

The players earned different amounts because some worked longer
than others. None received more than $200 and some received less
than $100, Lyke said.

The NCAA reinstated eligibility in part because the university
followed procedure in dealing with the violations, she said.
Players issued statements of wrongdoing, were required to forfeit
their convention job earnings and no longer can work with the
health care company.

Under NCAA rules, the money the players earned goes to the
university, which in turn donates it to the charity of the player's
choice.

The NCAA also took into account that the players worked for a
company that had employed them previously without incident.

Ohio State learned of the violation about two weeks ago while
reviewing athletes' work records.