President Gee Voices Support for Gene Smith
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee was not always pleased with the way his university handled the NCAA scandal over the past year, but he is not ready to put the blame on Athletic Director Gene Smith.
“I have been a consistent supporter of Gene and remain so,” Gee said while speaking with a handful of reporters during the Ohio State basketball game Tuesday night.
Gee and Smith were both on hand for the halftime ceremony honoring former Buckeye and Indiana coaching legend Bob Knight. That was not the topic of discussion with Gee, however, who said he was “disappointed” in the NCAA’s decision to punish Ohio State with a postseason ban for the 2012 season.
“As many of you know I have been one of the most outspoken advocates for reform in the NCAA,” Gee said.
“My hope is what the NCAA is signaling is a higher bar and a higher standard.”
The Buckeyes will also lose three football scholarships in each of the next three seasons and will spend the next three years on probation. There has been large-scale criticism of both Gee and Smith for the way they have handled things over the last 12 months, particularly since their March 8 press conference with former head coach Jim Tressel.
Gee did not deny the fact Ohio State had some rough moments early on, but seemed happy with the way Smith has handled most everything since Tressel was forced to resign back in May.
“I think we stumbled out of the gate. I think we made mistakes initially. I think we did not get a strong start,” the 67-year old Gee admitted.
“I think we gathered ourselves and put together a good approach, and I think from that point on I think we've done very well.”
Dennis Thomas, the chairman of the NCAA Division I infractions committee, said Tuesday that Ohio State has cooperated fully with their investigation into both Tressel and the violations surrounding booster Bobby DiGeronimo.
The Buckeyes felt like they had a good enough handle on the situation that they would not have a postseason ban from the NCAA. They opted not to self-impose a bowl ban for this season, instead accepting an invitation to the Gator Bowl.
“We had actually thought about that,” Gee said.
“But there was no guarantee if we had a bowl ban this year that we would not have had a bowl ban next year. A voluntary ban is different from an NCAA sanction.”
Thomas was asked about that during the teleconference on Tuesday afternoon. He said he would not deal in ‘hypotheticals’ over whether Ohio State would still have received a ban for next year if they had imposed their own for this season.
The Buckeyes could have appealed the NCAA’s decision, but Urban Meyer and his superiors decided it was time to move forward and officially close the book on this ugly chapter of Ohio State history.
“I feel closure,” Gee said.
“I am disappointed on one end but on the other end I am very relieved because I feel closure. I think we can now move forward.”
It will not be as clean a break as Gee or anyone at Ohio State was hoping for, but at least they know the extent of their fate.
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