Ohio State booster takes blame
An Ohio State booster has accepted responsibility for the payments three Buckeyes players received at a charity event earlier this year.
Robert "Bobby" DiGeronimo told The Columbus Dispatch that he played a key role in the $200 payments given to Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown. The payments took place at a Feb. 19 Cornerstone of Hope fundraiser in Independence, Ohio. DiGeronimo's son-in-law runs the charity.
Hall, Howard and Brown were suspended for Ohio State's first two games before being reinstated Tuesday by the NCAA. They are eligible to play Saturday against Miami.
DiGeronimo told The Dispatch that former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor provided the money to his teammates, adding that the payments were reimbursement for travel expenses to the event.
"However Mr. Pryor got the money, I take responsibility," DiGeronimo told the newspaper. "I am responsible for those kids coming up here from Columbus. I handled it wrong. I should not have handled it the way I did."
DiGeronimo later told The Dispatch and the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that players had never been paid in the past for attending the event and that the money came from a local businessman he declined to identify. The payments, DiGeronimo told the newspaper, were not discussed with the players in advance. He also told the Plain Dealer that he has also provided summer jobs to Ohio State football and basketball players during his 30-year involvement with the athletic program. Under NCAA rules, that is not a violation as long as the players actually work and are paid the going rate.
DiGeronimo, who cooperated with the NCAA during its investigation, said no one from the charity organization knew about the payments. Two other Ohio State players who attended the event said they didn't receive payments.
DiGeronimo told The Dispatch he expects to be banned from the program.
Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.