Dec. 9, 2004
MR. STEINER: Before we get started, I just want to let you know Coach Matta will be available to the press at 3:30 in the post-game interview room in the Schottenstein Center. In just a moment, we will hear a statement from Dr. Holbrook followed by a statement from Director Geiger. They will then, after they’ve both issued statements, will then be available to you for questions and answers. Upon conclusion of this news conference, we will issue a news release and any other materials that we have in writing including a copy of Dr. Holbrook’s prepared statement.
MS. HOLBROOK: Good afternoon. And thank you for joining us today. We’re here today to announce a significant step in the university’s ongoing investigation of its basketball program, the implementation of a self-imposed sanction in response to violations of NCAA rules. I want to emphasize that today’s action reflects the forthrightness and seriousness with which the university has dealt with this matter from the beginning. Our investigation has raised the need for further decisive institutional action.
The infraction we are dealing with today involves improper cash benefits given to a recruit who ultimately did not come to the Ohio State University. We’ve notified the NCAA of the step we are taking. The self-imposed sanctions on the men’s basketball program to date are as follows: The dismissal of the head men’s basketball coach, which occurred on June 8th, 2004; a one-year ban on NCAA and NIT post-season competition following this season.
Our announcement today is consistent with a proactive posture the department of athletics and the university has adopted since these matters first came to light. It is important to note that the NCAA investigation is ongoing and several interviews must still take place. It is likely that the university will announce further self-imposed sanctions when the investigation is complete. Ohio State remains firmly and fully committed to maintaining an academically sound, ethical and successful intercollegiate athletics program in all 35 sports serving a thousand student-athletes, our student body, alumni, fans and friends of the university. Ohio State has a proud tradition of intercollegiate athletics and a position of leadership in the Big Ten and the NCAA and, thus, we are disappointed that we are here today to announce the action we feel we must take.
I am now pleased to introduce an individual well known to all of you, our director of athletics, Andy Geiger, who is among the most respected athletic directors in this country. Andy?
GEIGER: Thank you, President Holbrook. I want to echo my thanks to you for being here on this rainy day. We are not thrilled to be telling you about this today and Coach Matta will be informing his team after practice today that we are taking ourselves out of consideration for post-season play at the end of this current basketball season. We feel that this action is imperative, delaying this decision to later in the year would likely render it meaningless. It is a meaningful decision at this time.
We felt it very, very important that we establish this step so that our basketball staff and basketball program can move forward with their recruiting and other activities that we have. Because of this self-imposed ban against post-season play in 2004 and five, we have extended Coach Thad Matta’s contract by one year. It is intended to show our confidence and appreciation for the manner in which he and his his staff have dedicated themselves to Ohio State. The one-year extension will add an opportunity lost this year. I want to make it perfectly clear that Thad and his staff had nothing to do in any way with the activities that have led us to impose sanctions against our program. It is an unfortunate feature of how we operate and how we have to conduct our business that very often those that have penalties imposed upon them did not cause the action which required the penalty, and this is exactly that case. His original contract, by the way, was for seven years beginning with this season. We are now extending him through the 2011-12 season. He had a seven-year deal and we are simply rolling it over one more year in his situation.
We have for you some materials that we will give you on your way out. It is the four pages from the NCAA manual that deal with penalties and it is several pages of precedence for institutions that have received one-year or longer bans from post-season tournaments. We give this to you for your reference points. I have gotten lots and lots of questions about these kinds of things and I thought it would be useful to you to have this to look over so when we get further into this, we will be able to talk a little bit on the same base of knowledge.
The investigations are ongoing. Ohio State is interviewing and the NCAA is interviewing. Often we are doing it jointly, sometimes separately. We do not anticipate closure on this issue for some time. It is a long and slow process. When we feel we have enough facts and we agree with the NCAA on where we are, we will certainly be back to impose further penalties. We are doing this in a cooperative way with the NCAA and, as I say, the activities are ongoing.
It is further complicated by legal action that still must take place which you all generally pretty much know about and, therefore, limits us in terms of the numbers of comments and kinds of comments that we’re going to be able to make. With that, we will open this up for questions.
REPORTER: On the day that Thad Matta was hired, you had said at that time that you did not think there would be any severe penalties against current players who are on the roster. At some point obviously that had to have changed for you; at what point was that?
GEIGER: We have been studying the very precedence that I referred to. I would reference, for example, the Michigan case that people in this conference are familiar with. It is inevitable that there would be a post-season ban and we chose to make that decision right now and withdraw this team from post-season consideration.
REPORTER: And based on this precedence, you are certain you will have to come back with additional penalties, that this will not be the end of it then?
GEIGER: Well, I think the facts have to be found, but we don’t think this is likely the end of it. Bruce?
REPORTER: Do you anticipate being able to conclude the NCAA investigation in advance of the conclusion of the court case that you referred to or because of subpoena powers and —
GEIGER: Which court case? There’s a couple.
REPORTER: The Salyers case.
GEIGER: I hope so. I hope so, and it’s just a matter of — there are things that are issues with the law that don’t have anything to do with the NCAA and there are things that overlap and we hope to get the overlapping things decided a bit earlier. Clay?
REPORTER: You said these things are ongoing, do you have any sense of if you’re halfway there, three fourths of the way home? There was a mention in the paper about August they might hear the case formally; what do you think?
GEIGER: It’s hard to predict that and I don’t want to put a time line on it because I’m liable to be wrong, so it will happen when it happens.
REPORTER: Why now? Why are you enacting this now?
GEIGER: So that our team can move forward with its plans and understand they know exactly what their situation is and the coaches can recruit, knowing what they can tell the recruits, that sort of thing.
REPORTER: Have you been able to talk to the seniors on this team?
GEIGER: I have not been able to talk to them.
REPORTER: Do you plan to?
GEIGER: They’re going to be talked to by the coach at the close of practice today. He will be available at 3:30 and we’ll have players available for you tomorrow morning.
REPORTER: One of the additional reasons, I would assume, that you’re doing this now is this would soften the blow later; you’ve more or less given up a season now.
GEIGER: We want to get started on whatever the penalties are going to be. Bob?
REPORTER: You mentioned recruiting, how this affects recruiting. If you only have announced the post-season ban for this season, it would not affect anybody that’s coming into the program after that, so how would what you’ve announced today, how would this impact recruiting at all?
GEIGER: We’re fairly confident that one season is about where this case is and we want to make sure that we have that established as this season for the very reason that you asked the question.
REPORTER: So what would the additional penalties be that you anticipate coming?
GEIGER: I don’t want to predict that at this point.
REPORTER: Other than NCAA precedent, have they impacted this decision at all today? I mean, did they suggest that you come forward with this today or not necessarily today, but that you make the decision —
GEIGER: In the course of these kinds of things, you compare notes with the NCAA and you begin to put together a possible list of sanctions.
REPORTER: Is that customary to work so closely with them and to be negotiating, in a sense?
GEIGER: It’s the way we always do it.
REPORTER: Is that right?
GEIGER: Yes. Bruce?
REPORTER: Has the Big Ten — you’ve spoken, I’m sure, with the Big Ten, are they agreeable to letting you participate in the Big Ten tournament?
GEIGER: As you have witnessed, the Big Ten policy is that teams that are in a situation like ours participate in the Big Ten tournament. If our team should win the Big Ten tournament, we simply would not have an automatic qualifier.
REPORTER: Would the announcement of the decision today, would it have been impacted at all if the team were undefeated or had not lost a couple games?
GEIGER: It would not be impacted. That’s exactly why we’re doing it as early in the season as we can.
REPORTER: If this team should not qualify for the post-season, do you have to give up a tournament berth or is there a chance that if this team qualifies, there is essentially no punishment for that?
GEIGER: Well, we’re taking ourselves out this year and hopefully the team will have a fine record at the end of the year whether or not it goes to a tournament, but how this affects play, we’ll find out, but we’ve been very pleased with our play so far.
REPORTER: Did the Coach’s contract have an automatic clause in it that said if there was prohibition from —
GEIGER: It does not.
REPORTER: Was that part of your negotiation when you hired him that should there be —
GEIGER: We talked about it, and it has been part of discussions that we have. The actual final agreement on the contracts have not been signed yet, but we’re getting close, but the coach and I concur wholeheartedly that this is the right way to handle it.
REPORTER: Are the financial terms of that added year the same as the previous?
GEIGER: They would be consistent with what the rest of the contract says.
REPORTER: In Dr. Holbrook’s statement she referred to the fact this pertains to a student-athlete who never played at Ohio State, so I want to make sure that nothing you’re implying about the penalty today involves anyone who ever played for Ohio State; is that correct?
GEIGER: That’s correct.
REPORTER: What remains to be investigated now? Can you talk in generalities or specifics about that?
GEIGER: I can’t really get into specifics, but I think the case and the issues that we’re dealing with are pretty well known.
REPORTER: You’ve talked about the Salyers lawsuit, the O’Brien suit, is there any update on that, where you stand?
GEIGER: I can’t comment on lawsuits and ongoing pieces of litigation.
REPORTER: Andy, can you comment on if there’s — as far as your investigation, are you investigating any alleged impropriety regarding Scoonie Penn?
GEIGER: I can’t comment on the investigation.
REPORTER: Do you know what the financial impact is roughly of not going to an NIT or NCAA tournament?
GEIGER: We haven’t gotten into that yet and the financial penalties are possible on down the road, but we haven’t quantified all of that at this point.
REPORTER: What would the school normally have if they hadn’t — if it had gone to the tournament, what would the school receive as far as —
GEIGER: Same thing as if we hadn’t gone.
REPORTER: What would a ballpark figure be?
GEIGER: There’s no difference and I’d have to look it up. We get an eleventh of whatever the Big Ten conference gets.
REPORTER: Do you still get that even though you’re taking yourself out of it?
REPORTER: Andy, is there any chance at all that the Big Ten championship and the Final Four will be stripped from the records?
GEIGER: I can’t comment, Todd, on any — nor do I want to speculate on anything that’s coming down the road.
REPORTER: Andy, as far as announcing what you have self-imposed today and not announcing anything beyond that, is it fair to say that Thad was having conversations with you about rival coaches using this against Ohio State in recruiting, is that why you wanted to get out there today with this?
GEIGER: That would be shocking if something like that happened! That would be a stunning development if rival coaches were using our travails against us!
REPORTER: Does that have something to do with why you’re doing this now?
GEIGER: It has something to do with it. It’s not the only reason why we’re doing it, but we want to give him a full platform to go out and recruit on which there’s tournament availability for our team.
REPORTER: Do you have any assurances or indications from the NCAA that it would not impose anything beyond a one-year post-season to help you in this recruiting?
GEIGER: We have no such assurances.
REPORTER: Dr. Holbrook, could you give us the university president’s perspective on the larger picture here with Ohio State athletics and the hits you’ve taken nationally, not only in this matter we’re discussing today, with the Jim O’Brien lawsuit, with the publication of articles on ESPN, and airing of stories on ESPN networks, just your perspective of how this has impacted the Ohio State University community, whether you’re troubled by this, whether you feel things are in order in your athletic department, just give us your perspective.
MS. HOLBROOK: You’ve asked two questions. Let me answer the second one, do I feel things are in order in our athletics program. That one I can answer with an unqualified I do feel that our athletics program is one that is built around integrity, built around solid values, built around a solid system of checks and balances and oversight of the program. I am confident that the Ohio State program is, as I said, committed to maintaining an academically sound, ethical, and successful program.
Am I troubled by what is out there? Absolutely. Every time you have this kind of information in the press and you have these kinds of articles that go nationwide and even beyond that, it says something about your university. As I said this morning in The Dispatch, people believe what they read unless it’s about them. And the unfortunate thing is, when these articles are out there, people look at them, and whether they find out that they’re not true in the end, it still sticks in their minds.
In an institution like this where we want to be known for our quality athletic program as well as our quality academics program, whenever you have something like this that sticks in people’s minds, it is very unfortunate for the institution. We will overcome it. We’ll go beyond it and we will not let it deter where we’re going and the kind of reputation that we have. But it is unfortunate, there’s just no way around it.
REPORTER: Andy, is the university’s investigation of this, of men’s basketball, complete or is that ongoing as well as —
GEIGER: Ongoing and in parallel. We do as much together as we’re allowed to do. We do some things on our own and report them, but compliance is, you know, the responsibility for, first of all, administering a program so there aren’t violations and then when you have difficulties, and every once in a while you have difficulties, there’s a fundamental responsibility in order to participate in getting it right. And getting it right is very, very important. So we are very proactive to a remarkable degree of a sense of urgency and we will continue to drive at this thing until we get it straightened out until we get it right, and we will let you know when we can let you know where we are with it.
REPORTER: Now, precedence of other cases involving NCAA investigation, the time lines on those would indicate that there is still a ways to go on this investigation before the penalties are announced. Why are you confident that — I think the Salyers case is set to go to trial in August. Why are you confident that Ohio State’s — what happens to Ohio State with the NCAA can be wrapped up before then when the precedent doesn’t indicate that?
GEIGER: I simply think that we will be able to interview the principals ourselves along with the NCAA, at least we’re going to try to, and come to NCAA rules-related conclusions. What happens in the lawsuit is the business of the lawsuit, not business of ours. But the NCAA rules that are involved are very much part of what we’re interested in and so far people have been forthcoming and we trust that that will continue, but we’re not quite finished yet.
REPORTER: One of the phrases you use a lot is due diligence, and I wonder in respect to the question Bob just asked, do you have a fear, maybe that’s not the right word, but you don’t have the same, I guess, hammer that you can use on potential witnesses in the NCAA investigation as the court does with perjury. Why would you maybe even want to conclude your investigation when things could happen post an announcement by you that could prove to be even more unlikely than you might get just talking about it?
GEIGER: Well, we would like to bring, for obvious reasons, this distraction to a conclusion as quickly as we can. We spend a lot of time on five and six and three and four years ago, and we’d like to be focusing forward and moving our programs forward to the best of our ability, so coming to closure on the issues they involve. And you asked the president about the issues that are involved with our program, those issues involve very few people and we’re eager to come to closure with those few things as quickly as we can so that we can move on with what in the main is a pretty terrific athletic program involving a thousand kids in 35 sports.
REPORTER: Has Thad Matta been interviewed or —
GEIGER: Doug, I can’t get into the insides of our work here.
REPORTER: One of the concerns that you might have is that this more or less makes the team members have — they’re left with very little incentive for the rest of the year, is that a major concern? They’re playing for a championship that, in fact —
GEIGER: Well, I would dispute that. I would think having the best team that they can have is an incentive. I think trying to prove that they could have gone had they been allowed to would be a motivating force. In the time that I’ve gotten to know Thad Matta, I don’t think he’s going to let them become passive. It’s not his way of doing things. He’s a great teacher of the game and has very high standards as to how the game is played and I expect that he will lead us, he and the guys on the team will lead us to a pretty darn good season.
REPORTER: Is it the Ohio State position that you characterize the process you’re in with the NCAA, would you characterize that as a major violations investigation?
GEIGER: I would. I would. I think the issue that we’re talking about today is in that category. I don’t think we’d be doing what we’re doing if it was secondary.
REPORTER: Did you seek the NCAA approval of the sanctions before you announced it?
GEIGER: No. We told them, though.
MR. STEINER: One more question.
REPORTER: Andy, real quickly, right after you started looking at the football thing again, you had a pretty quick update after that, what is the update since then on the little investigation they’re doing concerning Maurice Clarett allegations, et cetera?
GEIGER: Tim, same answer. I can’t talk about specifics with regard to investigations, but other than to say that vigorous attention is being paid to that, some by the NCAA, more by us at this point.
REPORTER: Is Maurice Clarett trying to reconcile with the university?
GEIGER: I think I’ve responded to that and, again, I can’t get into the details of that relationship or that investigation at this point.
MR. STEINER: Thank you very much.