Ohio St. trying to educate boosters
COLUMBUS (AP) - Embarrassed by accusations that boosters have given money to athletes, Ohio State is trying new ways to educate fans that gifts aren't allowed and to make sure players get the message.
''There's always an assumption that everyone has the best interest at heart,'' associate athletic director Richelle Simonson said. ''Maybe now we're a little more jaded.''
After quarterback Troy Smith was suspended for two games for taking about $500 from a football booster, the athletic department is sending compliance office workers to speak to booster groups around the state and outside Ohio.
An announcement was read before home basketball games this season cautioning fans about the limits the NCAA puts on boosters.
''Ohio State reminds you, 'If you don't know, ask,' and help the Ohio State department of athletics to stay in compliance with NCAA rules,'' the announcement said.
The school sent two pamphlets detailing NCAA rules for alumni, fans and friends with this year's mailing to football season-ticket holders and intends to pass out cautionary brochures at athletic events starting in August.
Coaches and compliance officers have spoken to players for years about not accepting money and gifts from boosters. Now more time and effort has been devoted to that process.
Still, it comes down to the message sinking into the athletes.
Most sports programs have one or two people who ignore the warnings, reflecting poorly on the majority of players, football linebacker Bobby Carpenter said.
''People look at it and say, 'Well, their school is rotten, they recruit the wrong type of kid. They have no quality people there. Their character level is low,''' Carpenter said. ''But in reality, we've got a lot of guys on this team. Guys make mistakes. Now we've got a chance to put all of that behind us.''
Football coach Jim Tressel said he put extra emphasis on the dangers of boosters and agents when speaking to his players.
''I've probably talked about it more with the kids this year than I have in the past,'' said Tressel, in his fifth year at Ohio State.
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger, who is retiring, has referred to an ''underworld element'' surrounding college athletics that includes agents, boosters and memorabilia collectors who sell autographs.
Smith was suspended by Ohio State in December after accepting money from booster Robert Q. Baker. The NCAA notified Ohio State on Monday that Smith will be reinstated if he repays the amount of money he received to a charity and sits out the Buckeyes opener on Sept. 3 against Miami (Ohio). Smith also missed the Buckeyes bowl game in December because he accepted the money.
NCAA investigators are looking into Ohio State's basketball and football programs. Former football player Maurice Clarett charged last summer that players received money from boosters and frequently were given high-pay, no-show jobs.
One of the pamphlets mailed to football season-ticket holders is 20 pages long and details the many things that boosters and fans are not permitted to do for a student-athlete or a recruit.
Ohio State President Karen Holbrook writes in an introduction to the pamphlet that compliance ''is essential to ensure the proper integrity and ethics in our programs. … Failure to uphold the rules of the NCAA and the Big Ten jeopardizes not only the eligibility of our prospects and student-athletes but also impacts negatively on the image of our university.''
Tressel said the pamphlets are a step toward combating abuses by boosters.
''We've had those pamphlets as to the do's and don'ts for boosters for years and years,'' he said. ''I think the impetus to distribute them more broadly has been on the heels of some situations and issues we had.''
Carpenter said he has grown tired of the jokes and innuendo about Ohio State's athletic department. He welcomes the new methods the university is trying.
''I believe in my heart that we have a lot of quality guys who do the right things,'' he said.