Athletic department will sanction businessman

Updated: December 30, 2004, 10:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said athletic officials will sanction a businessman who gave improper benefits to Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith.

Robert Baker
Robert Baker
The benefits led to Smith's suspension from Wednesday night's Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, where the No. 22 Buckeyes defeated Oklahoma State 33-7.

Geiger said 46-year-old Robert Q. Baker, who shares a luxury suite at Ohio Stadium, gave Smith an unspecified benefit at the Columbus business he used to run, in violation of NCAA rules.

An employee was disturbed by Baker's boast "Now, I own him," Geoffrey Webster, an attorney for Baker's former company, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He said possible penalties include blocking Baker from buying tickets to Buckeyes football games or not allowing him to buy into a luxury suite.

The violation comes after Maurice Clarett made allegations to ESPN The Magazine of payments and improper academic help this fall.

"I'm not sure that I think everything that Maurice said lacked credence," Geiger told the Akron Beacon Journal. "But what wasn't there is what is there now -- we have an example of something that has happened.

"Do I think it's systemic or widespread? I have no evidence of that."

Speaking to ESPN's Mike Tirico on College GameDay on Wednesday, Geiger said Ohio State would not turn a blind eye to the allegations.

"We obviously have to check in to that and get going on that when we get back to Columbus after this game," Geigar said. "That will be the first order of business when school opens again in January. We are constantly searching for issues like this."

Geoffrey Webster, an attorney for Baker's former company, Poly-Care Services, called the university Dec. 9 after employees described an envelope being given to an Ohio State player who doesn't work for the company.

An employee was disturbed by Baker's boast "Now, I own him," Webster told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"I can't think of any way to make that a good statement," Webster told the paper. "I've spent 30 years as an attorney, word-smithing things. I have a real hard time coming up with anything else that he could have meant that could be a positive. I just can't.

"To say something like that is really wrong and really inappropriate."

Webster said it wasn't clear what was inside the envelope.

Geigar said a runaway booster is any program's biggest fear.

"Good boosters are terrific and exactly what you want," Geigar said. "The rogue booster is what you constantly worry about what causes you [to miss] sleep. It is impossible to know what you don't know. When you find out something, you automatically delve into that situation to find out if there is other history."

Smith was suspended for the Alamo Bowl and next season's opener. Ohio State will have to petition the NCAA for his re-instatement.

Being an alumnus of the university didn't prevent Webster from coming forward with the damaging details.

"I love Ohio State," Webster told the Plain Dealer. "I just think it's going to take awhile for this small cadre of boosters to figure out that this is not acceptable behavior. My concept of the booster program is that it's there to establish mentors for young men and women.

"A booster should be someone who helps them make good decisions, not someone who throws envelopes at a kid and puts them in a position where they have a hard time making a good judgment."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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