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Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith unsure if arrests can be completely eliminated

At least one high-ranking Ohio State athletics official is unsure if there will ever be a time when a year will pass without a student-athlete finding him or herself in trouble with the law.

On the heels of former Buckeye football player Tracy Sprinkle’s arrest, OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith said in an interview with The Lantern Tuesday he doesn’t know if “we’ll ever get to that utopia.”

“It’s been like this for almost 30 years now, every year there’s something,” Smith said. “You know, people put themselves in positions where they just shouldn’t be, and they need to learn that.”

Sprinkle was arrested early Saturday following a bar fight in Lorain County and charged with rioting, failure to disperse, and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. In the summer of 2013, former OSU football players Bradley Roby and Carlos Hyde each found themselves in trouble with the law, and both were suspended for a portion of the 2013 season.

Roby’s suspension stemmed from his involvement in an incident at a bar in Bloomington Ind., July 21, 2013. He was originally charged with misdemeanor battery, but those charges were downgraded to disorderly conduct.

According to a The Lantern article from Aug. 17, 2013, OSU football coach Urban Meyer said that Roby put himself in a situation he shouldn’t have been in.

“He was there, and he shouldn’t be there,” Meyer said.

Smith said the majority of incidents occur in the summer, and he knows it could happen year in and year out.

“Having been in it, I know every summer we’re going to have something,” he said.

In order to avoid such incidents, Smith said it is important to create a culture where student-athletes understand how to remove themselves from potentially harmful situations. He added that he thinks Meyer and his staff have done a good job of educating their players.

“I really think that (Meyer) and his staff have done a great job of constantly educating, educating, teaching, teaching, creating a culture where young men need to understand they need to walk away from situations,” he said.

An OSU spokesman confirmed Monday that Sprinkle had been kicked off the team, but his standing would be reviewed pending the results of his legal issues.

Smith said he will always want to give a player another chance, as long as they are prepared to make changes.

“I’m always a huge believer in if you can save a kid, save him,” he said. “If we have an indication that, from a behavior modification point of view, they’re going to respond to us.”

Smith also acknowledge that there are times when the situation is not going to be right for certain student-athletes, and the two sides have to part ways permanently.

“I’ve also been in situations where, you know what, this is just not the right environment,” he said. “You know, we’re just not the right teachers.”

On top of Sprinkle, numerous OSU football players have been arrested since Meyer became head coach, but Smith said he believes the numbers are down from years past. Some notables include Roby, and two of his former teammates, Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort. All three played for the Buckeyes after the resolution of their own legal issues.

According to a report by Eleven Warriors, Sprinkle pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in Lorain Municipal Court Monday. He did not return requests for comment from The Lantern.

Regardless of the results of Sprinkle’s case or any future issues, the OSU football team is scheduled to kick off its 2014 season against Navy Aug. 30 in Baltimore, Md.


  1. Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort? Really ? Those two were were caught peeing on a building . Much different “legal” issues than Sprinkle incident .

  2. “Smith said he will always want to give a player another chance, as long as they are prepared to make changes”.
    There are times, depending on the severity of the incident (or the crime), where a second chance with the school is not the right thing to do Mr. Smith.

  3. I think the problem has been going on for more than 30 years. However, before that it was covered up by a media that cared more about the image of the university than crimes committed by student athletes.

    Still, I think Gene Smith has it right. You take any large group of people and a few of them will commit illegal acts. Add to that the fact that these are young men who are treated as “special” and you have a toxic mix where some are going to misbehave. Educate and monitor them, but in the end, it is their responsibility.

  4. Tom Phillips Sr

    Gene Smith said it right…Give a kid another chance as long as he is willing to make changes. But also make sure that all the student athletes know that they are responsible for their actions on and OFF the university campus. I know the coaching staff cannot be around them 24/7 so it has to be preached to them that they are responsible for the choices they make good or bad. Hopefully, as representatives of The Ohio State University, they will all learn from the mistakes of a few and make good responsible decisions in all that they do! Go Buckeyes

  5. College kids will do what college kids have always done. Some schools covered it up in the past and to some extent still try to today. But with social media being what is we hear about a great deal more. Based on my college experience 35 years ago, I think the athletes overall may be better behaved today than they were then … We just hear about it more now.

  6. Well Coach Karen Dennis you make hard decisions but take comfort in knowing the person you booted from your team is now the laughing stock of the country and social media for sending a NUDE picture to her father! Then to make matters worse discusses it on social media like another day at the “hoodrat” office!!! You saw a cancer on the team and had to get rid of it. Student athletes please don’t trash your parents on social media. Hire a therapist if it’s that bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Where do we find leaders like these?!?

    If I were an incoming football player with a wild streak, I’d think, Go For It. The AD expects a little wild behavior and he’ll give me a second chance as long as I act repentant.

    Instead he should say his goal – which he is working tirelessly toward — is zero arrests. He should emphasize the high privilege and special opportunities given to the varsity athletes, especially football players. But really, can a guy like this — paid almost $2 million/year, but can’t even bother to wear a tie for an interview — effectively communicate this message.

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