In an interview with Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, earlier this week and that went “live” last night, athletic director Gene Smith seemed to indicate that some of the NCAA violations self-reported by the school could be beyond secondary in nature.
“We’ve got 12 pending,” Smith told the paper of the number of unresolved violations. “It may turn out to be secondary. It may not.”
It may not what? It may not be secondary as in “it may be no violations occurred” or as in “it may be major violations occurred”? The paper took it as the latter, writing that Smith “doesn’t know if they will be deemed primary or secondary violations.”
The ambiguous nature of Smith’s quote and the paper’s interpretation of it apparently set off a significant amount of message board speculation that OSU athletics in general and the football program in particular could again be facing major violations. Thanks to a combination of the rumor mill churning and the Buckeyes’ recent brush with major violations and subsequent sanctions, Smith was forced to issue a statement clarifying his comments to the student paper.
Here’s Smith’s statement, in its entirety:
“Contrary to reports attributed to me, Ohio State Athletics is not facing any major NCAA violations. There are several secondary violations being processed by our compliance office. These are similar to those released last week. Again, these are secondary in nature and consistent with our culture of self-reporting even the most minor and inadvertent violations.
“Again, to be clear, the Ohio State football program, its coaches and staff are not facing any violations.”
According to The Lantern, there were self-reported violations from 21 of 36 varsity sports at OSU in the past year, with 11 of those sports reporting multiple violations. Like it does in revenue, the football program led the athletic department with nine secondary violations.
UPDATED 12:56 p.m. ET: Ohio State has released an additional, rather lengthy statement further clarifying exactly where the athletic department stands on the issue of NCAA violations. As always, here it is in its entirety.
To clarify information and to be transparent with regard to information reported this morning about Ohio State athletics, no Ohio State athletics program is facing any major NCAA issues.
There are 12 secondary NCAA issues being processed by the athletics compliance office. These are similar to those released last week. All are secondary in nature and consistent with the department’s culture of self-reporting all issues.
— Football – The compliance office approved the use of mini basketballs during a football winter conditioning workout.
— Men’s Gymnastics – The practice activities of a gymnastics alum were publicized.
— Institutional – Two baseball prospective student-athletes arrived on campus for official visits before being placed on the request list.
— Institutional – Athletics financial aid agreements were issued to three prospective student-athletes without being signed by the financial aid director.
— Football – A former assistant football coach had an inadvertent contact or “bump” with a prospective student-athlete.
— Field Hockey – A former assistant coach sent an email to a prospective student-athlete believing that she was a 2013 high school graduate.
— Men’s Tennis – A high school football coach and friend of the tennis program’s head coach stopped by the tennis training facility unannounced with an assistant coach and four prospective student-athletes during a dead period.
— Baseball – A prospective student-athlete in grade 12 registered and showed up for an Ohio State camp for participants in grades 9-11 even though he was told he was not eligible to compete at the camp. A t-shirt was given to the individual to defuse the situation when he got upset that he couldn’t compete.
— Baseball – A prospective student-athlete received a complimentary admission to a home baseball game during a dead period.
— Women’s Hockey – A former assistant coach inadvertently sent an email to a 2014 prospective student-athlete when the prospect was mistakenly entered into the recruiting data base by the previous coaching staff as a 2013 graduate.
— Football – The program understood the aunt of a prospective student-athlete was his legal guardian and provided food and lodging expenses to her for the official visit.
— Football – An assistant coach inadvertently posted on the Facebook wall of a 2013 prospective student-athlete, believing at the time he was using the email inbox function of Facebook.
In an effort to administer an athletics program consistent with the values of the NCAA and the university, we have consistently led the Big Ten Conference in self-reports as we have the largest number of sports and student-athletes. Ohio State has 36 varsity sports, while the average number of sports offered by the remaining 11 Big Ten institutions is 22. In addition, athletics staff and coaches at Ohio State have embraced the culture of identifying (as required under NCAA rules) even the smallest violation, investigating the matter and educating those involved.
Comment from Big Ten Conference Associate Commissioner, Compliance, Chad Hawley to Ohio State’s compliance office: “We are not concerned about the quantity of violations. Division I athletics is a highly regulated environment with a self-reporting requirement. When it is clear that a violation has occurred, we expect our institutions to report the violation. Ohio State has a well-established practice of operating in this way.”