Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
Five Ohio State football players were paid by a Cleveland-area booster for work they did not do, and as a result, three of the five players are suspended from Saturday’s game at Nebraska.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith announced Monday that senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, senior running back Dan Herron and offensive lineman Marcus Hall will be suspended for Saturday’s game at Nebraska as part of the NCAA’s investigation of the program.
Melvin Fellows and Etienne Sabino were also involved, though Fellows is no longer playing due to a career-ending injury and Sabino has already been reinstated.
The employment violation involves the wages the players were paid relative to the hours they worked under Robert DiGeronimo.
DiGeronimo is a former booster from Independence, Ohio. The university sent a letter of disassociation to DiGeronimo on Sept. 20.
“Bobby DiGeronimo has been disassociated from the institution,” Smith said. “Publicly it’s looked at as taken so long (to disassociate him), but there is a process of procedures and a strategy.”
DiGeronimo is the same Cleveland-area booster who paid junior running back Jordan Hall, junior defensive back Travis Howard and sophomore defensive back Corey Brown at a charitable event in February.
DiGeronimo did respond to phone calls for comment from The Lantern.
In an interview with The Columbus Dispatch, DiGeronimo said he felt he did nothing wrong.
“There were no irregularities,” he told the Dispatch. “The hours they were paid were the hours they worked.”
Smith said Posey, Herron and Marcus Hall would be suspended for the Nebraska game on Saturday, and further suspensions have not been ruled out.
“The dollar amount for each student athletes determines the penalty that will ultimately be levied by the NCAA,” Smith said.
According to documents provided by OSU, Herron was overpaid $292.50. He was paid for 104 hours of work, even though he only worked 84.5 hours.
Posey was overpaid by $720, being paid for 70 hours of work, despite actually working only 21.5 hours.
Posey also received $102 in impermissible benefits for a round of golf.
Posey and Herron were originally suspended the first five games of the season and were scheduled to be reinstated for Saturday’s game at Nebraska.
Marcus Hall was overpaid by $225. He was paid for 66.5 hours of work, despite only working 51 hours.
Sabino received $60 extra compensation, being paid for 16 hours of work despite actually working only 12 hours. He will play Saturday as long as he pays the money back first.
Fellows was overpaid by $292.50. He was paid for 82.5 hours, though he only actually worked 61 hours.
Requests for comment from Posey and Herron were declined.
Jerry Emig, the associate director of athletics communication, said the athletic department is not making athletes available for comment.
When Jordan Hall, Howard and Brown were suspended for taking $200 from DiGeronimo. They each received a two-game suspension. All of the players in Monday’s allegation, with the exception of Sabino, received more than $200 in impermissible benefits.
The documentation provided by OSU notes that the players did not know they were being overpaid by DiGeronimo, but “none knew their hourly wage or the number of hours for which they were paid.”
Smith said the investigation was a collaborative effort between the university and the NCAA.
“At this point in time we are going through the restoration committee for reinstatement,” Smith said. “We are fortunate and optimistic that when we move forward with our broader case that there is no additional allegations to share.”
The reinstatement process is ongoing, Smith said.
“The NCAA has done a very thorough job of evaluating our systems, our procedures, our policies and our structural education,” Smith said. “We will have to wait and find out from the reinstatement staff the magnitude of the penalties.”
Smith said he does not expect charges of “failure to monitor” or a “lack of institutional control.”
“These failures are individual failures, failures of individual athletes,” Smith said. “And as you know, unfortunately, a previous coach, and a booster.”
Smith said the university can use this as an example of what not to do, and learn from it.
“Were there lessons learned by us? No question,” Smith said. “Will we be able to improve our education and monitoring? No question. At the end of the day, individual decisions were made that went off the reservation.”
Smith said that as athletic director of the university, he is responsible for the new allegations.
“I am held accountable,” Smith said. “That’s why I’m sitting here today. We need to constantly work collaboratively with the NCAA.”
Cameron Dahlin, a first-year in business, said that without these players, OSU does not stand a chance against Nebraska.
“If Posey were to come back, it would help our QB situation by giving them someone to throw the ball to,” Dahlin said. “If we want to stand a chance at all, we need them to play.”
Smith informed the team of the news at 3 p.m. on Monday and he said they were disappointed. Smith said head coach Luke Fickell was also disappointed.
“Obviously Luke (Fickell) was disappointed,” Smith said. “I tried to keep him informed throughout the process of potential realities that we might be here.”
Smith expects the NCAA ruling on OSU’s case to be delayed.
“I anticipate that the Committee on Infractions will take longer and ultimately give us an answer, hopefully, sometime this fall,” Smith said.
The NCAA has yet to rule on the OSU’s status going forward, but OSU has already administered self-imposed penalties. These include vacating the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory, giving back the $388,811 earned from the Sugar Bowl and a two-year NCAA probationary term.
Posey, Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas were originally suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after selling Buckeye football memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Linebacker Jordan Whiting received a one-game ban.
Thomas and Adams will return for the game against Nebraska.
Posey and Herron’s original suspensions were part of head football coach Jim Tressel failing to report various violations to the compliance department.
A Columbus-area lawyer contacted Tressel via email in April 2010 informing him of memorabilia being sold to a tattoo parlor owner, Eddie Rife. Tressel kept that information to himself and knowingly played Herron, Posey and other athletes that were later deemed ineligible for the duration of the 2010 season.
Tressel was forced to resign on May 30 and Fickell was named interim head coach for the entire 2011 season. The university later changed the terms of Tressel’s departure from a resignation to a retirement.
Former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor had also received a five-game suspension before departing the university on June 7 to pursue a career in the NFL.
Pryor was drafted on Aug. 23 by the Oakland
Raiders in the supplemental draft, and after a ruling from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, was suspended for the first five games of the 2011 NFL season.
Smith said the university has to monitor more than 1,000 athletes at the university, and they are working on improving compliance education for all of them.
“We have 1,090 athletes, 200 new ones every single year ages 17, 18 years old, come to us from all levels of maturity and immaturity,” Smith said. “We have to constantly find ways to make sure we are doing things right to help them.”
William Hessler contributed to this story.