Ohio State now faces 'failure to monitor'

Updated: November 11, 2011, 8:05 PM ET
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

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.

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."

School officials are scheduled to appear before the NCAA infractions committee again on Dec. 10 to answer to these latest charges. However, Ohio State has asked to have the charges reviewed during a conference call the week of Nov. 28 -- the final week of the football regular season.

The NCAA alleged that DiGeronimo provided a total of $2,405 in extra benefits to nine football players. That included payments of $200 each to four players who attended a charity event in February, and five players who were overpaid a total of $1,605 for work they did not perform in summer jobs at DiGeronimo's excavation company.

DiGeronimo has admitted giving $200 to running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard, defensive back Corey Brown and former Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor at the charity event.

Hall, Howard and Brown were each suspended earlier this season. Running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and offensive lineman Marcus Hall were suspended for their role in the summer job case. Herron and Posey had their five-game suspensions stemming from the tattoo scandal lengthened.

DiGeronimo and Posey have disputed the allegations of overpayment for jobs.

Ohio State disassociated itself with DiGeronimo on Sept. 20 and announced it was taking measures to enhance its education and compliance monitoring.

But the NCAA said the school "failed to take appropriate actions to determine if DiGeronimo continued to employ student-athletes or host them at the charity event despite concerns about his interaction with the football program."

In addition, the NCAA said Ohio State "failed to educate football student-athletes about DiGeronimo, encourage them to cease interaction with him or inquire about their potential employment with DiGeronimo and attendance at the charity event."

DiGeronimo's charity, called Cornerstone of Hope, was involved with a secondary violation involving a lack of paperwork in 2006. In its response, Ohio State said it told DiGeronimo to stop interacting with coaches, visiting athletic facilities and being around the program.

However, the school still allowed athletes to work at DiGeronimo's company and attend his charity events -- though it said players were strongly encouraged to fill out the necessary paperwork to do so.

DiGeronimo had been an Ohio State booster since the 1980s, when he was part of a group known as the "committeemen" who helped recruit players before such practices were outlawed.

DiGeronimo contributed more than $72,000 to the athletic department since 1988 and had been a season ticket holder for years, the report said.

DiGeronimo was one of a group of outsiders who had access to Ohio State's locker room on game days, a practice that coach Jim Tressel stopped after taking the job, according to the NCAA report.

After that ban, Tressel caught DiGeronimo trying to hide in a locker to listen to Tressel's pregame speech and ordered him and another individual out of the locker room, the report said.

Smith said in a statement that the school accepts "that we should have done more to oversee Mr. DiGeronimo's activities."

"On a personal note, I deeply regret that I did not ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands," Smith added.

Ohio State has already vacated its 2010 season, imposed a two-year probation period, forfeited its 2011 Sugar Bowl payment and fired Tressel as part of its response to NCAA allegations earlier this year.

Brian Bennett covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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