Ohio State's recruiting efforts have been stellar since Urban Meyer took over as coach in late November, but things took a bad and bizarre turn late this week.
Linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone, rated No. 65 in the ESPN 150, decommitted from the Buckeyes on Friday. As colleague Mitch Sherman reports, Anzalone made his decision after a sex offender who is also an Ohio State fan posted a picture of himself and the junior linebacker on the Web. The picture was taken last month during Anzalone's visit to Ohio State for the spring game.
From Sherman's story:
After the game, 31-year-old Charles Waugh, listed on Kentucky's sex-offender registry, approached Anzalone and fellow visitors Mike Heuerman, a tight end now committed to Notre Dame, and Ohio State commit Joey Bosa, a defensive tackle from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Waugh posed for a photo with the recruits. He posted it on Twitter this week and sent several messages via the social-media website to OSU players and recruits. That was enough to spook Anzalone, who already had experienced some regret about his early college decision, his father said.
"You would think that these kinds of people would be kept at a distance away from recruits," Sal Anzalone said. "The fact that he got close to recruits was the issue. Keep people like this away from them. I can't be everywhere."
As first reported by The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper, Ohio State's compliance director Doug Archie on Friday sent an email to players stating that the university is aware of pictures they have taken with Waugh. The email included a warning to Buckeyes players and a link to a 2008 newspaper report about Waugh entering "guilty pleas to five counts of possession of matter portraying sexual performances by minors." Waugh reportedly has been in contact with both current and former Ohio State players, as well as recruits.
From The Lantern:
"We strongly recommend that you take the steps [see links below] to block his access to your Twitter and Facebook accounts," Archie said in the email. "In addition, we've enclosed a photograph and a link to a news article regarding this individual. As a reminder, the individuals who you associate with on social networking sites [i.e., Twitter, Facebook] can have negative implications on your reputation and the university. Please remember to choose your 'social media friends' carefully!"
Sal Anzalone told Sherman that he didn't blame Meyer or defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who was Alex Anzalone's main recruiter. While the younger Anzalone is reopening his recruitment, he still could consider pledging for the Buckeyes, his father said.
"Ohio State had no idea that this guy was a perv," Sal Anzalone said. "They were totally unaware. Let's make that very clear. That's not Ohio State. But Alex was creeped out by him. He thought something was wrong. Alex wasn't going to get hurt. Alex could knock him out. But the point is, this creep shouldn't be near recruits."
A couple things to remember. Waugh isn't classified as a booster, just a Buckeyes' fan. This isn't an NCAA violations issue, but rather one about student-athlete welfare. Sal Anzalone's concern as a father certainly is justified, particularly after the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State (the Anzalones live in Wyomissing, Pa.)
How Waugh had such close access to players and recruits raises some questions. Then again, it's difficult for schools to account for everyone in a very public setting like the spring game.
It does seem like Ohio State has a tougher time shielding its players from potentially problematic individuals than programs in the Big Ten. This could be because the Buckeyes are located in a major city (Columbus), and are undoubtedly the biggest sporting attraction in the area (and possibly the entire state). But after what has transpired in the past year and a half, Ohio State must continue to take steps to protect its players.
The school did the right thing by getting the word out about Waugh. It will be interesting to see if there's any more fallout from this situation.