Ohio St president: athletic director’s job is safe

Ohio State President Gordon Gee said Wednesday he expects

university athletics director Gene Smith to stay on despite head

football coach Jim Tressel’s resignation and a growing number of

alleged NCAA violations by the football program.

Gee also told Columbus-area reporters there is ”a legitimate

question” about how some confirmed violations happened and that

Ohio State’s athletic compliance system should be fixed if it’s not

working.

Tressel was forced to step aside Monday in the midst of an NCAA

investigation involving players’ sales of game memorabilia.

Both Gee and Smith heaped praise on Tressel during a March news

conference called after it was revealed Tressel had known about the

sales for months but never alerted university authorities. Gee said

at the time that Tressel’s job was safe.

On Wednesday, Gee said, ”Gene Smith’s job is safe.”

The brief comments were Gee’s first since the university

announced Tressel’s resignation Monday.

Gee spoke outside the university’s Wexner Center for the Arts,

named for Harry L. Wexner, the father of Les Wexner, the

billionaire chairman of the OSU board of trustees.

Les Wexner, chairman and founder of Limited Brands and a major

donor to the center and university, has so far declined to comment

about the scandal. Other university trustees have referred comment

to Wexner or Gee.

Gee said he couldn’t say much at the moment on the advice of the

university’s attorneys. But he did acknowledge events in recent

months drew attention to how the university monitors athletes’

compliance with NCAA rules.

”It raises a legitimate question of how did some of these

things happen,” Gee said. ”If it’s not working, then we make it

work.”

Gee called the situation ”an intense national scandal” and

said it felt at times as if he were in the midst of a tsunami.

Tressel’s 10-year reign as coach of the Buckeyes ended in

disgrace Monday as he was forced to step down for breaking NCAA

rules.

He knew players received cash and tattoos for autographs,

championship rings and equipment and did not tell anyone at Ohio

State or the NCAA what he knew for more than nine months. NCAA

rules – and Tressel’s contract – specify that he must disclose any

and all information about possible violations.

Gee’s handling of the crisis has been criticized by fans and

alumni since the memorabilia sales were first revealed in December.

Several emails to Gee’s office at the time said it was hypocritical

for the university to suspend five players for five games this

upcoming season but allow them to play in January’s Sugar Bowl.

Gee didn’t help his cause with a joke he made at the March 8

news conference when asked by a reporter if he had considered

firing Tressel.

”No, are you kidding?” Gee said. ”Let me just be very clear:

I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at

http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus