Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and football coach Urban Meyer both committed NCAA violations in the last year, and they were not alone.
Violations by Smith and Meyer accounted for two of 46 violations that the athletic department self-reported to the NCAA since May 30, 2011.
OSU released documents last week detailing the violations that have occurred since the day former Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign from his job. The violations were attributed to 21 of the department’s 36 teams.
Teams involved with the NCAA violations included football, men’s basketball, field hockey, synchronized swimming, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s golf, men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s gymnastics, mixed rifle, women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, wrestling and women’s ice hockey.
OSU football compiled the most violations with nine. Buckeyes football violations spanned across the coaching tenures of Tressel, former head coach and current defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Meyer.
Six OSU teams – field hockey, wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, women’s soccer, women’s tennis and women’s ice hockey – committed three violations. The men’s basketball, synchronized swimming, women’s lacrosse, and women’s golf teams rounded out the list of teams with more than one offense.
The OSU athletics communications staff also committed one NCAA violations categorized as “institutional” violations, which involved the women’s basketball team.
Of Smith’s part in the 46 violations, he and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin recorded a personal recruiting video for prospective football student-athlete Ezekiel Elliott. Smith and Griffin both missed Elliott’s unofficial visit while attending the OSU men’s basketball team’s Final Four appearance on March 31. Smith told The Lantern it was not the first time he had prepared video recruiting material, and does so when he is off campus.
“I have done videos before for recruits when I am traveling and coaches are hosting the recruits on campus,” Smith said in an email to The Lantern. “But never for a specific recruit mentioning her/his name, which is where I made the mistake in the video.”
Griffin was not immediately available to respond to The Lantern’s request for comment.
Elliott, a St. Louis, Mo., native has verbally committed to OSU, according to Rivals.com.
Meyer was hit with a secondary violation while recruiting for saying “good luck” to Noah Spence, then a prospective OSU student-athlete, prior to a Dec. 16 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoff game.
The documents released by OSU included a print-out of a Harrisburg Patriot-News story that featured a photo of Meyer speaking with a fully-padded Spence on the sidelines.
Meyer, Smith and Griffin’s missteps, along with the 44 violations OSU teams committed, are deemed either Level I or Level II NCAA violations.
A Level I violation is defined as, “In general: Violations of bylaws outside of (NCAA) Bylaws 10-17, all intentional violations, and violations not isolated or limited to a single occurrence, and any similar violations that previously have occurred in the same sport during the same year,” according to the OSU-released documents.
Level II violations are defined as: “All inadvertent violations of the operating bylaws (Bylaws 10-17) not identified as Level I violations. Level II violations do not require reinstatement by the NCAA.”
Athletic department spokesman Dan Wallenberg said the department has “consistently” led the Big Ten in self-reported violations as part of an effort to administer an athletics program consistent with the NCAA and the university.
“Ohio State has 36 varsity sports, while the average number of sports offered by the remaining 11 Big Ten institutions is 22,” Wallenberg said in a Thursday email. “In addition, athletics staff and coaches at Ohio State have embraced the culture of identifying (as required under NCAA rules) even the smallest violation, investigating the matter and educating those involved.
“The records released (Thursday) are consistent with the size of Ohio State’s program, the NCAA rules and the culture within the Department of Athletics to look aggressively for any actions that may have violated NCAA policy.”
Wallenberg did not respond to multiple emails from The Lantern regarding why OSU coaches contacted high school and other non-OSU students who aren’t prospective student-athletes, which occurred in several of the instances that resulted in violations.
During a March 10 Big Ten Tournament game against Michigan, OSU men’s basketball video coordinator Greg Paulus, a non-coaching member of the staff, was seen engaging in “one-on-one conversation with student-athletes that seemed to be tactical” in nature,” according to the documents OSU released.
Wallenberg also did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding why Paulus is permitted to sit on the bench during competitions.
The NCAA and Big Ten conference also did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment regarding the quantity of self-reported NCAA violations by OSU.
In response to OSU violations, some OSU students said they supported OSU and questioned the necessity for the type of rules OSU broke.
Joshua Boos, a fourth-year in accounting, said he thought the violations OSU committed were likely to happen at other institutions as well.
“There’s definitely a fine line between what I think should be a recruiting violation and what shouldn’t be,” Boos said. “I think with Ohio State being such a large powerhouse in sports across the board, they’re definitely going to be highlighted for any type of violation even though I think it’s pretty common, it’s commonplace across the board with all universities.”
Richard Leeman, a fourth-year in communication, agreed, and called some of the NCAA rules “petty.”
“The NCAA violations, especially the very minuscule ones, sometimes I feel like they go a little too far,” Leeman said. “It’s frustrating how petty they can get. I mean, Urban Meyer saying ‘good luck’ to someone, that’s a little ridiculous in my book.”
Ian Rowland, a marketing major, said the violations OSU self-reported didn’t bother him.
“The NCAA is a ridiculous organization anyway,” Rowland said. “I mean, anybody who follows sports can vouch for that.”
Paul Peters contributed to this story.