We interrupt the ongoing crisis at Penn State to bring you the latest from that other, suddenly not-so-shocking scandal in the Big Ten, where the NCAA has just tacked on two additional allegations to the list of charges against Ohio State. In response, the Buckeyes have conceded to self-imposed scholarship penalties — albeit minor ones: five fewer over three years — for the first time.
Unlike the major violations the NCAA hung on former coach Jim Tressel in April, the charges outlined in the supplemental notice of allegations delivered to Columbus on Nov. 3 have no direct connection to the "Tattoogate" coverup that eventually cost Tressel his job, forced quarterback Terrelle Pryor's premature departure from the university and planted three other senior starters on the bench for the first five games of the season. Instead, the new allegations cite improper benefits paid by a booster, Cleveland-area businessman Bob DiGeronimo, whose relatively low-level largesse resulted in further suspensions at the start of the season and extended suspensions for two of the "Tattoo Five," tailback Boom Herron (right) and receiver DeVier Posey.
Specifically, the NCAA alleges that:
a) "…between the spring of 2009 and summer of 2011, Robert DiGeronimo, representative of the institution's athletics interests, arranged for the provision of extra benefits to nine football student-athletes worth a total of $2,405 in the form of compensation for work not performed and cash payments."
b) "…the institution failed to adequately monitor Robert DiGeronimo, representative of the institution's athletics interests, including his interaction with and employment of football student-athletes… Specifically, the institution knew that DiGeronimo previously employed football student-athletes (2004 through 2006) and, on multiple occasions, hosted them at an annual charity event he is associated with (2006, 2007 and 2010) but 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, his previous involvement in a secondary violation related to football student-athletes' attendance at the charity event (2006) and his attempt to form close personal relationships with football student-athletes."
Sanctions-wise, the "failure to monitor" charge — which also accuses OSU of failing to educate players about DiGeronimo or to "encourage them to cease interaction" with him — is potentially far more serious than anything in the previous allegations, in which the terms "failure to monitor" and "lack of institutional control" were conspicuous only in their absence. For those charges, the Buckeyes have already vacated 12 wins and their share of the Big Ten title from the 2010 season and self-imposed probation. At the same time, they also managed to successfully pin the blame on Tressel as the only guilty party in the entire athletic department for covering up his knowledge of multiple violations by Pryor and at least one other player for more than 10 months. Chalk it up to an "individual failure."
The NCAA's final verdict, including any additional sanctions, is yet to come — it could be settled by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions during its meeting on Dec. 10 — but in comparison to wiping a championship season from the books, sacrificing five scholarships over three years doesn't sound like a program living in much additional fear. Then again, compared to the news out of State College over the last five days, a couple bills in an envelope doesn't seem like such a sin.