Some will look at the 46 secondary violations committed by Ohio State across 21 sports over the last year and see the athletic department having more trouble abiding by NCAA rules.
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Instead, athletic director Gene Smith said the minor mistakes were a sign that Ohio State is diligent about finding and reporting violations and that it was more or less a typical year for rules problems.
"It’s nothing that troubles me,” Smith said Friday. "It’s normal operating business. It’s nothing that troubles me. I’ve seen all the cases, we know all the cases. You look at them, and they’re inadvertent mistakes.”
Ohio State is already under NCAA probation for football players getting cash, tattoos and too-high summer wages. Those problems led to the forced resignation of head football coach Jim Tressel last May.
Through a public records search, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Ohio State had self-reported 46 secondary or minor violations since Tressel’s resignation. They include assistant football coach Mike Vrabel using smokeless tobacco on the sideline and head coach Urban Meyer wishing luck to a recruit during a non-contact period. Other violations include the women’s hockey program spending $4 too much for five framed jerseys and men’s basketball video coordinator Greg Paulus exceeding his job description by actually coaching during a game.
Ohio State also reported that the women’s lacrosse team didn’t take a day off one week, that a men’s volleyball assistant spoke to a man whom he later found out was the father of a prospective recruit and that a member of the women’s rifle team won $75 in a competition as a member of the USA Shooting Team. All are NCAA violations.
The NCAA required education sessions or repayment of nominal sums of money to resolve most of the violations.
Ohio State spokesman Dan Wallenberg issued a statement in which he said the Buckeyes athletic department always leads the Big Ten in self-reports because it has the most varsity sports (36) and student-athletes (around 1,000) in the conference. He said that in the wake of the NCAA sanctions handed to the football team in December – NCAA probation, a bowl ban after the 2012 season and vacating the 2010 season, among other penalties – Ohio State has "embraced the culture of identifying even the smallest violation.”
That would include a December 2010 incident when five Buckeyes football players took five recruits to a movie. The cab ride to the movie put each recruit between $1 and $5 over the $60 in spending money allowed for entertainment by the NCAA. The Buckeyes players paid the excess out of their own pockets but it was still a minor violation for the recruits to exceed the $60 limit.
Smith said that 46 secondary violations involving 21 sports was not excessive.
"That’s a typical year. We’ve had higher and we’ve had lower in a year,” he said. "But that’s what we look for. We want an environment where our staff and coaches understand that you’re going to make inadvertent violations but you need to report them. If we were operating at around (a total of) 10 or 15 or 20, I’d have concerns because I know our rules are so deep that you’re going to make mistakes. We want people to report them, and they do.”