Ohio State to reduce scholarships

Ohio State University will reduce its football scholarships by five over the next three years as part of the university’s latest self-imposed punishment it hopes will satisfy NCAA investigators weighing how to respond to the school’s football scandals.

The university previously announced it will repay the $338,811 it received for playing in the Sugar Bowl, a 31-26 victory over Arkansas, along with vacating the 2010 season including the Sugar Bowl win and going on two years of NCAA probation.

The university had also suspended six players and forced the resignation of coach Jim Tressel.

The university on Thursday informed the NCAA of its decision as part of material it submitted to the college sports governing body, which is weighing potential punishments for Ohio State.

The university had previously said that former booster Robert DiGeronimo arranged cash payments of $200 to four current or former players at a Cleveland sports banquet earlier this year.

The university also said DiGeronimo overpaid five players by $1,605 while they were working for businesses owned and operated by the DiGeronimo family.

The punishments announced Thursday were the university’s formal response to those previously acknowledged violations.

Ohio State said Thursday it should have done more to monitor DiGeronimo’s activities.

Athletic Director Gene Smith said the athletics department has consistently worked with the NCAA to investigate any allegation, take responsibility and self-report its findings to the NCAA.

”That is what we have done on this last open issue, and we accept that we should have done more to oversee Mr. DiGeronimo’s activities,” Smith said in a statement.

He added, ”On a personal note, I deeply regret that I did not ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”

DiGeronimo did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

The university said in a report to the NCAA Thursday that DiGeronimo had been an Ohio State booster since the 1980s, when he was part of a group known as the ”committeemen” who helped recruit players before such practices were outlawed.

DiGeronimo contributed more than $72,000 to the athletic department since 1988 and had been a season ticket holder for years, the report said.

DiGeronimo was one of a group of outsiders who had access to Ohio State’s locker room on game days, a practice that Tressel stopped after taking the head coaching stop, according to the report.

After that ban, Tressel caught DiGeronimo trying to hide in a locker to listen to Tressel’s pregame speech and ordered him and another individual out of the locker room, the report said.

In 2005, Tressel and then Smith also ordered DiGeronimo to stop providing lunches to members of the athletic department coaching staff.

Despite these actions, the university said it should have done a better job monitoring DiGeronimo’s interactions with players away from the university, including attendance at an annual charity event where DiGeronimo was on the event’s board, as well as taking jobs with DiGeronimo’s excavation business.

Ohio State’s football woes began in December when the university learned some players had traded memorabilia or paid cash for tattoos. Tressel was forced out after the university learned he’d known of the players’ actions, which violated university and NCAA rules, but failed to report them as required by his contract.

Six Ohio State players were suspended for the first five games this fall for trading memorabilia for cash and discounted tattoos. Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of those suspended players, gave up his final year of eligibility for a shot at playing in the NFL. One other player has left the program; yet another player sat out the season opener.