Michael Periatt / Asst. sports editor
The Ohio State athletic department self-reported 46 NCAA secondary violations since May 30, 2011, and OSU athletic director Gene Smith said he thinks that’s “natural.”
By Smith’s estimation, OSU fans should possibly expect about 40 violations most years, and that quantity doesn’t upset the Big Ten Conference.
OSU released records last week that revealed the 46 secondary violations, which can be attributed to 21 of the university’s 36 varsity sports. Of the quantity and variety of violations that were made public last week, Smith told The Lantern, “For us, it’s natural.”
“On an annual basis, we have about 40 (violations),” Smith said during a Tuesday interview. “It ranges in that area we’re sitting at. In that 40 range is where we always hang.
“Our whole thing is if we have 10 (violations), I’d have a problem. I mean, I really would because people are going to make mistakes. And that means if I only have 10 out of 350 employees (and) 1,000 athletes – something’s not right.”
Big Ten associate commissioner for compliance, Chad Hawley, credited OSU’s self-reporting processes, adding that the conference is “not concerned with the quantity of violations” OSU committed.
“Division I athletics is a highly regulated environment with a self-reporting requirement,” Hawley said in an email to The Lantern. “When it is clear that a violation has occurred, we expect our institutions to report the violation. Ohio State has a well-established practice of operating in this way.”
Smith attributed OSU’s violation’s to the athletic department’s size, saying, “We’re large.”
“When you do your benchmarking, you have to keep in mind that we have 36 sports,” Smith said. “You can compare us to Purdue, which has less sports. It’s different (at OSU). We have 350 employees. And we’re probably second only to Texas in that regard, and they only have 20 sports.”
Teams involved with the NCAA violations included football, men’s basketball, field hockey, synchronized swimming, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s golf, men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s gymnastics, mixed rifle, women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, wrestling and women’s ice hockey.
Smith said multiple offenses by individual teams is a concern of his, especially if the violations committed are in relation to recruiting.
“We worry … if we have one particular sport that violates recruiting rules,” Smith said. “That’s how we look at those. If you have a sport that recruits a large number of athletes, then you’re going to have more of those. If you have a smaller sport with 12 athletes, say women’s golf or men’s tennis or one of those – and they have a consistent number of recruiting violations, then we’ve got a problem.”
Smith was cited for breaking NCAA recruiting policy despite his distaste for recruiting infractions in particular.
Smith, along with two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, recorded a personal recruiting video for prospective football student-athlete Ezekiel Elliott. Smith and Griffin both missed Elliott’s unofficial visit while attending the OSU men’s basketball team’s Final Four appearance on March 31. Smith told The Lantern it was not the first time he had prepared video recruiting material, and does so when he is off campus.
“I have done videos before for recruits when I am traveling and coaches are hosting the recruits on campus,” Smith said in a Friday email to The Lantern. “But never for a specific recruit mentioning her/his name, which is where I made the mistake in the video.”
Griffin was not immediately available to respond to The Lantern’s request for comment.
Elliott, a St. Louis, Mo., native has verbally committed to OSU, according to Rivals.com.
OSU spokesman Dan Wallenberg said Smith and Griffin created the video “in good faith.”
“NCAA rules permit employees to meet with prospective student-athletes on campus during official or unofficial recruiting visits,” Wallenberg said in a Tuesday email to The Lantern. “In this instance, Gene Smith and Archie Griffin were heading out of town and could not meet with the prospective student-athlete. They in good faith believed that they could produce a video message for the prospective student-athlete to watch during his visit to campus. The video covered the materials that they normally share with prospective student-athletes during a campus visit.”
All told, 11 OSU teams committed multiple violations.
OSU football compiled the most violations with nine. Buckeyes football violations spanned across the coaching tenures of former coach Jim Tressel, former head coach and current defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and current head coach Urban Meyer.
Six OSU teams – field hockey, wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, women’s soccer, women’s tennis and women’s ice hockey – committed three violations. The men’s basketball, synchronized swimming, women’s lacrosse and women’s golf teams rounded out the list of teams with more than one offense.
The OSU athletics communications staff also committed one NCAA secondary violation categorized as “institutional” violations, which involved the women’s basketball.
There are several questions that are asked when violations arise, Smith said.
“We look at those numbers in a lot of different ways,” Smith said. “Step one – why is that occurring? Step back and say, ‘Why is that happening?'”
Smith said he also questions the intent of each violation.
“All those (violations since May 30) were unintentional,” Smith said, “but then when you look at any pattern of behavior, then you look to ‘are we not doing what we’re supposed to be doing unintentionally? Do we have intent?’
“The large numbers to me are very important, because it sends all kinds of messages, for me. Are coaches getting it? That type of thing.”