Ohio State’s lengthy tango with the NCAA took another turn yesterday when two additional allegations were added to the original Notice of Allegations the school received over the summer from players receiving impermissible benefits and Jim Tressel‘s cover-up of those benefits. One of the new charges included the dreaded “failure to monitor” in light of new information that Ohio State booster Robert DiGeronimo arranged for $200 cash to be given to four current or former players at a charity event in February, 2011.
The result of those new allegations was a self-imposed scholarship reduction by Ohio State — five scholarships over the next three years starting in 2012. The NCAA can either accept those sanctions, as they did with Ohio State’s self-vacated 2010 victories, or add to them. But it’s the failure to monitor charge that should cause athletic director Gene Smith to sweat the most. One step below the “lack of institutional control” charge, failure to monitor is nevertheless serious in its own way.
Smith issued a statement yesterday saying he was disappointed he didn’t “ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee? Well, suffice it to say his tone has changed a bit since his infamous “poster child of compliance” speech.
“I am aware that you took certain actions and believed you had appropriately distanced him from the program,” Gee said in a letter to Smith released by OSU. “However, the revelations about student employment and student involvement at the Cleveland-area charity gala, both involving Mr. DiGeronimo, indicated that those cautions were insufficient. The consequences were significant for student-athletes and this institution.
“I am disappointed that this is where we find ourselves. You know I find this unacceptable. Nevertheless, we have learned from these experiences.”
Warning slap across the wrist, or indication Smith is on a short leash? You can be the judge of that, but things have the potential to get worse before they get better. Late last night, the Cleveland Plain Dealer received a statement from DiGeronimo essentially saying the booster could go all Nevin Shapiro on his beloved school.
“My guess is that Gene needs a villain in this case and, unfortunately, it’s me,” DiGeronimo said. “What’s surprising is the inaccuracies in the reports I have seen from him. I have letters from OSU that he would not want me to make public. I wouldn’t do that to the school I have loved all these in years in spite of Gene Smith.”
DiGeronimo did not speak with NCAA investigators when they attempted to reach him about Ohio State’s latest allegations. Additionally, he denied reports that he was kicked out a locker room by former coach Jim Tressel during a pregame speech in either 2001 or 2002, calling them “baloney.”
“I got mixed signals” DiGeronimo said about Ohio State’s alleged attempts to distance themselves from him.
Indeed, Ohio State’s stance has been to blame the individual since Tressel’s firing in May.
“These are failures of individuals, not a systemic failure of compliance,” Smith said last month.
Whether Smith is next up on that “list of individuals” remains to be seen.