Ohio State has paid a Columbus law firm nearly $142,000 to represent players during recent NCAA investigations into the eligibility of several OSU athletes.
Crabbe, Brown and James LLP has been paid $141,814.30 as of mid-September, said Shelly Hoffman, assistant vice president for OSU Media Relations.
Larry James, the attorney representing the football players who were suspended by the NCAA for being paid for work they didn’t do by Robert DiGeronimo, said he expected backlash from the release of the figure, but confirmed to The Lantern that the figure was correct.
James also represented the players involved in “Tattoo-gate,” including former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and the group of football players James referred to as the “Sports Illustrated 9.”
The “Sports Illustrated 9″ refers to nine current players, separate from the six players suspended for “Tattoo-gate,” “whose alleged wrongdoing might fall within the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations,” according to a June 6 Sports Illustrated article.
Hoffman did not immediately return requests asking for how much the firm was paid for representing athletes in each case specifically.
OSU’s athletics department paid the fees out of its general operations fund, which student fees do not go toward, said Dan Wallenberg, associate athletics director for communications.
He also said the funds for similar services could come out of the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund, which was created by the NCAA in 2003 to provide direct benefits to student-athletes or their families, and is generated by NCAA basketball tournament revenue. However, the athletic department didn’t dip into the fund on this instance so as not to deplete the fund for other student athletes, Wallenberg said.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said according to NCAA rule 16.3.2, the cost of legal representation is allowed to be provided by the university in any investigation into a student-athlete’s eligibility.
Requests for comment from OSU President E. Gordon Gee, OSU athletic director Gene Smith and OSU associate athletic director for compliance Doug Archie were not immediately returned Monday night.
Student Legal Services provides court representation to students in cases involving Franklin County Municipal Court, Franklin County Common Pleas Court, 10th District Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Ohio, according to its website.
However, students must pay a $40 fee for the service encompassing the school year from Aug. 1 to July 31, which students had the ability to opt-out of. Students enrolling for the first time any quarter other than Autumn Quarter are eligible to pay a prorated fee.
Richard Vedder, who studies higher education financing and is a retired economics professor from Ohio University, said he does not believe universities should provide athletes free legal counsel.
“I’ve never heard anything so outrageous in my life,” Vedder said.
Vedder said the current system in college sports is corrupt because schools are unfairly representing athletes. Vedder, however, said athletes drawing income for the university but not being paid was “athletic child molestation.”
Still, Vedder doesn’t agree with OSU paying for athletes’ lawyers. He said the university could spend the money on libraries or helping to lower tuition.
Auburn University paid $170,000 in attorney fees to represent former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton from November 2009 through February 2010 during the NCAA’s investigation into his eligibility, according to Feb. 9 report in The Birmingham News.
Michigan paid more than $600,000 in attorney fees for an infractions case involving former head football coach Rich Rodriguez in 2010, according to a report in annarbor.com.
Smith announced in a press conference on Oct. 3 that Posey would be suspended at least one game for being overpaid for work he didn’t do by DiGeronimo. The NCAA announced Friday that Posey would be suspended for five games. DiGeronimo has been disassociated fro the university.
Senior running back Dan Herron and sophomore offensive lineman Marcus Hall, who were also employed by DiGeronimo, were suspended only for Saturday’s game at Nebraska. Junior defensive lineman Melvin Fellows was also involved but is out with a career-ending injury, as well as senior linebacker Etienne Sabino, who was permitted to play so long as he repaid the $60 he was overpaid to a charitable organization.