Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ohio State almost escaped notice

Oh noes:
The NCAA has notified Ohio State that it will face a "failure to monitor" charge in addition to more allegations of rules violations by its troubled football program.

Ohio State will strip itself of five total football scholarships over the next three years in response to the further alleged violations, the school announced Thursday.

The Buckeyes, who were awaiting a ruling after appearing before the NCAA committee on infractions Aug. 12 for the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal, received another notice of allegations from the NCAA on Nov. 3. Those allegations revolved around a Cleveland-area booster who provided extra benefits to players.

"Failure to monitor" is among the most serious allegations the NCAA can bring against a member school.
Translation: It's gonna be bad for Ohio State, and the important people know it. The "failure to monitor" charge is significant because (a) it's right there with "lack of institutional control" as the things that make athletic departments go boom and (b) it signifies a major change in the case since just a couple months ago. Keep in mind that after all the TatGate stuff and the loaner cars and the drug money and whatnot were investigated following the SI bomb, this was the NCAA's announcement:
"Considering the institution's rules education and monitoring efforts, the enforcement staff did not believe a failure to monitor charge was appropriate in this case," the summary said.
The reason for that change: Bobby DeGeronimo and his willingness to give players money for just about anything (or nothing). I'm pretty sure that some major penalties -- scholarship losses, specifically -- were coming down the pipe regardless, but there's no doubt now. Ohio State figured that out as soon as the lawyers saw "failure to monitor" and went into damage-control

The "strip itself of five scholarships" thing is a token effort to add something slightly more serious to the laughably meaningless self-imposed penalties (probation and bowl-money repayment) announced back in the spring. The actual result will be worse; I'm guessing five to seven per year for each of the next three years, not spread out over the next three, and possibly a two-year bowl ban given the significantly upgraded allegations. Based on that ESPN excerpt above, it might be a while before we know for sure since a new notice of allegations means a new hearing (scheduled for December 10) and the requisite minimum of 90 days before a final decision comes back. I won't be upset if it comes after signing day since the uncertainty alone will crater any chance OSU had of salvaging a decent 2012 recruiting class.

What was almost as interesting as the "oh f$#&@!" scholarship slashy slashy was the fact that Ohio State immediately starting distancing itself from Gene Smith in preparations for the inevitable athletic department housecleaning once the penalties come down. Details:

Ohio State president Gordon Gee expressed disappointment Thursday in athletic director Gene Smith for not properly monitoring the actions of the ex-booster, Robert DiGeronimo.

In a letter to Smith, dated on Thursday, Gee wrote, "I am disappointed that this is where we find ourselves. You know I find this unacceptable."

That's interesting since it was just a month ago that Smith was supposedly doing a swell job:
When asked if his stance had changed on Smith's job security, Gee said in a Oct. 5 email to The Lantern: "Gene Smith is doing an excellent job. Thanks for asking."
Things change in a hurry once the NCAA enforcement people start, like, doing their jobs. Massive NCAA scandal that leads to vacated seasons and fired coaches? "Excellent job!" Failure to monitor? "Unacceptable!"

These seriously fit every situation:

I'll be shocked if this ends with Gene Smith still employed at Ohio State.

So ... that's where things stand. If you're gonna get hit with a serious charge that most likely means very bad things for your football program, this is probably the week to do it. But my guess is that a lack of coverage won't be an issue when stuff gets real in/around February.


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