The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the Ohio State University (“OSU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The initial information before the committee involved violations which began in the fall of 2008 when football student-athletes received cash payments or reduced cost/free tattoos from the owner of a Columbus, Ohio tattoo parlor (“tattoo parlor owner”). One of these student-athletes also received a loan and a discount on an automobile. These benefits were provided by a tattoo parlor owner in exchange for football awards, apparel, and equipment issued to the student-athletes by OSU. Because the tattoo parlor owner was not considered a representative of the institution’s athletics interests, “booster,” his provision of cash, tattoos and other items constituted “preferential treatment” rather than extra benefits under NCAA legislation.
These matters were initially presented to the Committee for hearing. Just prior to the hearing before the Committee, additional major violations were discovered yet the hearing went forward as planned. OSU did not contest the new allegations involving impermissible benefits provided by a representative of athletics interest and failure to monitor charge, thus the Committee decided a second hearing was not warranted.
The Committee found that OSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Preferential treatment in violation of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.6, 14.11.1, 16.1.4, and 188.8.131.52
Between November 2008 and June 2010, eight football student-athletes received preferential treatment and, other than student-athletes 2 and 7, sold athletics awards, apparel, and/or equipment to the tattoo parlor owner. Despite extensive education regarding extra benefits and preferential treatment from the compliance staff from 2007 through 2009, student-athletes 1-8 committed the following violations:
In April 2009, student-athlete 1 sold his 2008 Big Ten Conference Championship ring to the tattoo parlor owner for $1,000.00.
Between August 2009 and June 2010, student-athlete 2 received 12 free tattoos from the tattoo parlor, valued at $900.00.
In the summer of 2009, student-athlete 3 sold a 2008 National Championship game jersey, a pair of game pants, and pair of game shoes to the owner of the tattoo parlor for a total of $1,000.00, and received two free tattoos from the tattoo parlor, valued at $150.00 total.
In June 2009, student-athlete 4 sold his 2008 Big Ten Conference Championship ring to the owner of the tattoo parlor for $1,200.00 and received an estimated $50.00 discount on a tattoo from the tattoo parlor.
In May or June 2009, student-athlete 5 sold his 2008 Big Ten Conference Championship ring, his 2008 “gold pants” team award and his 2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award to the owner of the tattoo parlor for a total of $2,500.00.
Between February and November 2009, student-athlete 6 sold his 2008 Big Ten Conference Championship ring ($1,000.00) and his 2008 “gold pants” team award ($350.00) to the owner of the tattoo parlor for a total of $1,350.00, and received an estimated $155.00 discount on five tattoos from the tattoo parlor.
In the summer of 2009, student-athlete 7 received an estimated $150.00 discount on three tattoos from the owner of the tattoo parlor.
Between November 2008 and May 2010, student-athlete 8 sold his 2008 Big Ten Conference Championship ring ($1,500.00), his 2008 and 2009 “gold pants” team award ($250.00 each), a game helmet ($150.00), a pair of game pants ($30.00) from the 2009 contest against the University of Michigan, and his 2010 Rose Bowl watch ($250.00) to the owner of the tattoo parlor for a total of $2,430.00, and received an estimated $55.00 discount on two tattoos from the tattoo parlor. Additionally, student-athlete 8 received $100.00 for obtaining team autographs on two replica football helmets belonging to the owner of the tattoo parlor, an estimated $2,420.00 discount on the purchase of a used vehicle and an $800.00 loan for vehicle repairs from the owner of the tattoo parlor.
2. Unethical conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1
The former head coach failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics as required by NCAA legislation and violated ethical conduct legislation when he failed to report information concerning violations of NCAA legislation and permitted football student-athletes, including high profile student-athletes, to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition while ineligible. Specifically, in April 2010, the former head coach received multiple email notifications that football student-athletes, including student-athletes 4 and 5, received preferential treatment from and sold athletics awards, apparel, and/or equipment to the owner of a local tattoo parlor; however, the former head coach failed to report the information to athletics administrators instead reporting student-athlete 5’s transgressions to his mentor. Additionally, the former head coach withheld the information contained in the April 2010 and subsequent emails throughout the 2010 football season when he permitted football student-athletes to compete while ineligible. The former head coach also failed to report the information contained in the emails when questioned during OSU’s December 2010 investigation. Further, in September 2010, the former head coach falsely attested that he reported to OSU any knowledge of NCAA violations when he signed OSU’s certification of compliance form.
The former head coach had at least four opportunities to report the information concerning football student-athletes and the tattoo parlor owner: i) in April 2010, when he initially received the information in emails from the local attorney; ii) in September 2010, when he signed the certification of compliance form; iii) on or about December 9, 2010, when OSU questioned him about the letter from the Department of Justice; and iv) on December 24, 2010, when he sent a text message to the local attorney asking if the information that had just recently been released concerning the reinstatement of six student-athletes related to the information the local attorney had provided the head coach earlier in the year (local attorney replied “yes”). The former head coach’s inaction on four separate occasions was in the Committee’s view, a deliberate effort to conceal the situation from OSU and the NCAA in order to preserve the eligibility of the aforementioned student-athletes, several of whom were key contributors.
3. Payment for work not performed; Impermissible extra benefits in violation of NCAA Bylaws 12.4.1, 184.108.40.206-(a), 16.02.3, and 220.127.116.11
Between the spring of 2009 and summer of 2011, the representative (the representative refused to cooperate in the investigation) arranged for the provision of extra benefits to nine football student-athletes worth a total of $2,405.00 in the form of compensation for work not performed and cash payments.
The representative arranged for five football student-athletes to receive compensation totaling $1,605.00 for work not performed while they were employed at a business owned and operated by the representative’s family.
On February 19, 2011, the representative arranged cash payments of $200.00 each to four football student-athletes along with student-athlete 5 at an annual charity event for a nonprofit organization of which the representative was on the board. The $200.00 payment from one of the representative’s businesses to student-athlete 5 was provided shortly before student-athlete 5 declared for the supplemental NFL draft. Student-athlete 5 refused to cooperate during the investigation.
Seven football student-athletes attended the 2011 charity event without written approval from the athletics director or his designee in violation of promotional activities legislation, and at least five football student-athletes attended the 2008 event without approval.
4. Failure to monitor in violation of NCAA Bylaw 2.8.1
OSU failed to monitor the representative including his interaction and employment of football student-athletes. Specifically, OSU knew that the representative previously employed football student-athletes (2004-2006) and, on multiple occasions, hosted them at an annual charity event with which he is associated (2006, 2007, and 2010). However, OSU failed to take appropriate actions to determine if the representative continued to employ student-athletes or host them at the charity event despite concerns about his interaction with the football program, his previous involvement with 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. Additionally, OSU failed to educate football student-athletes about the representative, encourage them to cease interaction with him or inquire about their potential employment with the representative and attendance at the charity event. As a result, the representative continued to employ student-athletes without OSU’s knowledge and host them at the annual charity event.
OSU concluded given the circumstances, it should have 1) reinforced to student-athletes that they could not attend the charity even unless they were directly told by the compliance staff that their attendance was approved; 2) contacted the representative directly to inform him that student-athletes could not be employed unless the student-athletes registered their employment; and 3) contacted the charity in 2011 to inform it that student-athletes could not attend the event unless the charity submitted the appropriate forms to the compliance staff; and 4) ensured that its football staff informed the compliance office about the representative’s request to employ student-athletes and that it received from the representative completed questionnaires regarding such employment. The person who received these forms in 2006 and 2007 is no longer with the OSU and OSU ceased sending these forms in 2009.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized OSU as follows: