One football recruit and a group of three men’s basketball recruits went on their official visits to Ohio State and took trips to the set of College GameDay before the football team’s game against Oklahoma on Sept. 9.
Both parties walked onto the stage of College GameDay and met with former Ohio State quarterback and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State running back and celebrity guest picker Eddie George and two other ESPN analysts. The visits, it turns out, weren’t permitted, and Ohio State ended up self-reporting three NCAA violations for reach program.
But the Ohio State football program issued a much harsher self-imposed punishment from the university than the basketball program, despite the exact same violations occurring at the same location on the same day.
As part of its self-imposed punishment, the football program agreed to end its recruitment of former five-star defensive end and now-Penn State freshman Micah Parsons, who was declared ineligible to compete for Ohio State, while issuing a one-game suspension to the football recruiting assistant — Ed Terwilliger — who brought Parsons to the stage. The NCAA agreed with the action and decided no further action should be taken.
However, Ohio State did not give its men’s basketball program nearly as harsh of a punishment. In fact, it’s possible two of the prospects have already signed with the Buckeyes for next season.
The self-imposed punishments were not harsh enough for the NCAA, which added three additional sanctions including one that made the three recruits temporarily ineligible and required Ohio State to apply for reinstatement in order them to play for the Buckeyes.
Both Cleveland.com and 247Sports reported three basketball prospects visited Ohio State that weekend: Elijah Weaver, Luther Muhammad and Jaedon LeDee. Muhammad and Ledee have since signed letters of commitment with Ohio State and will join the program in the fall. The two were seen at St. John Arena that day and tweeted about their visits during that weekend.
LeDee committed on Sept. 19 while Muhammad joined him on Sept. 22. The violation was not reported until Nov. 16. Ohio State was unwilling to confirm whether Weaver, Muhammad and LeDee were the three prospects in the violation.
Despite committing the same NCAA infractions, the basketball program continued its recruitment of the three basketball players and did not suspend the staff member — director of player development Scoonie Penn — who allowed the prospects to walk onto the stage and set area.
Instead, the program was forbidden from returning to the set of any future College GameDay sets over the remainder of the 2017-18 school year and letters of education regarding the violation of the bylaws were sent to both the basketball program and the producers and analysts of GameDay, according to the report obtained by The Lantern.
As noted, the NCAA did not agree with Ohio State’s action and decided to impose three additional penalties, according to Ohio State’s compliance department.
It declared the three prospects ineligible, requiring Ohio State to apply for reinstatement for the student-athletes involved in the violation from the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff. This specific sanction matches what Ohio State self-imposed in its punishment of the football program.
The NCAA also issued a reduction of “two recruiting person days” and forced Penn to sit out one game.
The Lantern reached out to the NCAA for comment about the current eligibility status of the basketball recruits, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor and former compliance director at Marshall, said he expects the two players to be reinstated quickly and that the process is more of a formality than anything else. He cited his own personal experience, where at Marshall, the program self-reported a violation in the morning, had the player ineligible, contacted the NCAA and had the player reinstated before the end of the day.
“If it’s something very minor and I look at this as pretty innocuous with the basketball players, it can happen relatively quick,” Ridpath said. “But I’d be stunned if it’s not done in a little while, but certainly it would be done by the season and they don’t really have anything to worry about.”
The main difference between the punishment for the football program and that of the men’s basketball program is neither the university’s compliance department nor the NCAA told the program it could not recruit any of the three basketball players. This calls into question how Ohio State decided to determine the self-imposed punishments and why they differed so drastically.
Ohio State did not comment on the discrepancy in the the self-imposed punishments.
After learning of the self-imposed punishment on Ohio State’s football program, Parsons’ father, Terrance, told The Lantern that he believed the recruitment of his son ended because of a tweet his son had sent out after the Oklahoma game that then-redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins should replace then-redshirt senior J.T. Barrett.
Parsons said he and his son were supposed to meet head coach Urban Meyer the next day, but did not see him and were not contacted by Ohio State after the Oklahoma game except for a brief exchange with Meyer. He said no one ever notified him of the violation, which Ohio State reported on Sept. 26.
The idea of Ohio State using this to smoothen the ending of the recruitment is not far-fetched to Ridpath.
He said that if a program decided it no longer wanted to pursue a player, an NCAA violation would be a convenient excuse to tell the recruit that they can’t be recruited anymore because of a violation.
“I think Mr. Parsons is spot-on correct,” Ridpath said. “Is that nefarious of Ohio State? Not really. They’re playing the game and they’re playing it pretty effectively to be honest with you.”
In both instances, the same three NCAA bylaws were broken.
Though it was not a violation to meet with the former Buckeyes, it was a violation for all recruits to meet with other members of the media during an official visit. The contact broke two NCAA bylaws that state members of the media may not be present during a school’s recruiting contact with the prospect. In both cases, the prospects entered the stage and set area, which is not accessible to the general public, which broke the third NCAA bylaw.
Both Ridpath and Don Jackson — an attorney from Montgomery, Alabama, with experience representing college athletes — said they believe the punishment for Micah Parsons was excessive, given the type of violation. Jackson called it an “awfully serious sanction for this violation.”
Ohio State reported the football program’s violations in September, but did not report the basketball program’s violations until November.
Jackson said because Ohio State self-imposed a much more severe punishment on the football program before and set a precedent for a harsh penalty, the sanctions self-imposed by the basketball program did not appear to be enough in the eyes of the NCAA.
“Had they self-reported the offenses or the violations and self-imposed the less-severe sanctions, it’s quite possible that the NCAA might have accepted that,” Jackson said. “Unless there was some degree of intentional conduct or a past history of compliance issues in a particular program, this was not a significant violation.”
Terrance Parsons declined to comment on the matter, saying he just wanted to put the whole incident behind him and his family.
“Well I think it’s important to say, I don’t think Ohio State’s done anything bad or wrong here,” Ridpath said. “They’ve done the reporting and there’s two different results really because of the way they reported it and I think they have to be honest that Micah Parsons wasn’t part of their plans anymore. These three basketball players — even though one wasn’t — obviously [were].”
Correction: Don Jackson was misidentified as “Brown” on second reference instead of “Jackson” on three occasions. He also was incorrectly quoted in the story as saying “awful” instead of “awfully.” The Lantern regrets and apologizes for this error.