COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The president of Ohio State testified Wednesday that the school had grounds to fire basketball coach Jim O'Brien because he admitted violating NCAA rules by lending a potential recruit $6,000.
Because of the admission, Karen Holbrook said the school didn't have to honor a provision in O'Brien's contract that said the NCAA had to rule on alleged violations.
O'Brien, however, denied telling former athletic director Andy Geiger that he violated an NCAA rule. His suit, in the Ohio Court of Claims, asks for $3.5 million in back pay and benefits for being improperly dismissed in June 2004. The judgment could grow by
millions if interest and other damages are awarded.
"The issue was the coach had entered into a clear violation of
NCAA bylaws, it was considered to be a blatant violation, and an
egregious violation, and one that had no remedy," Holbrook said.
O'Brien said the loan to Aleksandar Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 prospect from Serbia, was not a violation because he knew Radojevic
already had forfeited his amateur status by playing professionally.
He said he gave the money to Radojevic because the player's
father was dying and the family had no money for medicine or the
O'Brien's lawyers have argued that his contract allowed Ohio
State to suspend him until the NCAA investigated any possible
violation and then rendered a decision, but Geiger said that was
"We're now in the 19th month of the NCAA process. Having a
coach in limbo or having a coach suspended would be grossly unfair
to the young people who play basketball at Ohio State," said
Geiger, called as the school's first witness but testifying for the
third time in the trial. "It would have arrested any development
of our program and that would have been an untenable solution."
O'Brien coached the Buckeyes to a 133-88 record that included
two Big Ten titles and a conference tournament title in seven