Booster Involvement Leads to More Football Suspensions
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — By now, most people have heard that Ohio State seniors DeVier Posey and Boom Herron face an additional NCAA suspension for their involvement with Robert "Bobby” DiGeronimo.
The NCAA began looking into the now-disassociated Cleveland-area booster after it was revealed that three current Buckeyes accepted $200 cash at a charity event put on by DiGeronimo’s son-in-law back in February.
Those three players—Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown—were suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season, but now the attention has been turned to Herron and Posey.
Ohio State’s leading-rusher and second-leading receiver a year ago were supposed to return to action this week against Nebraska after missing the first five games of the season.
Instead, they will miss an additional game, and possibly more for accepting inflated compensation while working summer jobs for “Bobby D” in the Cleveland area between June 18, 2009 and March 25, 2011.
“The violation involves excessive compensation regarding hours worked and hours paid,” OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said Monday.
“This was a rigorous investigation collaborated with the NCAA enforcement staff. The dollar mounts with each student athletes determines the penalty that will ultimately be levied by the NCAA."
The Buckeyes are expected to get left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas back from their suspensions this week, but they will also be without starting right guard Marcus Hall, who has also been suspended by the NCAA for his involvement with DiGeronimo.
Defensive end Melvin Fellows and linebacker Etienne Sabino were also implicated, but Fellows has taken a career-ending medical hardship. Sabino applied for reinstatement and was granted permission to play this week against Nebraska because his overpayment totaled only $60, which he has since repaid to charity.
The players were hired by DiGeronimo—who has since been identified as a booster—to perform work on behalf of Independence Excavating, Inc. or its affiliated business, including a carwash and recycling center.
The student-athletes did not register these jobs with the institution’s compliance office, but said that they were not aware they were being overpaid for their work.
“According to the controller, no timecards were completed, as a supervisor verbally reported the hours worked to the controller, who wrote the check,” Ohio State said in its release.
“The check provided to the student-athletes did not include the number of hours worked nor the hourly wage.”
The overpayments to Herron, Hall and Fellows totaled less than 20 hours (or $300) per player, but Posey was paid $720 for 48.5 hours he never worked. That included a week in June, 2009 where he was paid for 24 hours of work (at $15 an hour), but only worked five hours that week.
The following February, Posey was paid for 20 hours that he never worked during the week of 2/19/2010. He also received an extra benefit valued at $102.00 as a result of golfing with Columbus-based photographer Dennis Talbott at the Scioto Reserve Country Club.
Posey did not pay the $62 green fee, $30 club rental fee or $10 cart fee. It’s uncertain whether Talbott was the one who paid for Posey, or if a third party was involved.
As for DiGeronimo, he has officially been disassociated from the Ohio State athletics program.
“Because of your failure to meet with the University to discuss these important issues and in light of the information we have learned regarding your involvement with the NCAA rules violations, this letter is formal notification of your immediate disassociation with The Ohio State University's Department of Athletics,” Gene Smith said in his official notice of disassociation.
“You are to be completely eliminated from any involvement in the University's athletics program, and no benefit or privilege related to Department of Athletics will be provided to you that generally is not available to the general public.”
The only question then becomes what took so long, and how did someone like DiGeronimo manage to fly under Smith’s radar for so long? He has been a known entity around Ohio State since Luke Fickell’s days as a player in the mid 1990s.
Smith insisted that the university just learned that he had been employing current players.
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