COLUMBUS, Ohio — Only in the world of NCAA compliance can an oversized placemat be considered illegal.
Same for a poorly timed photo-op in front of a smoke machine.
Both of those violations by the Buckeyes wrestling program, which occurred on the same weekend, are included among the 27 minor violations Ohio State self-reported to the NCAA for the 2019-20 academic calendar. Cleveland.com received the documents as the result of a records request.
The violations cover at least 16 sports and range from the mundane to the goofy. One wrestling weekend included a double shot of the latter.
According to Ohio State, a wrestler making an official visit was given a personalized placemat at dinner. The director of recruiting operations incorrectly believed the placemat could be larger than the 8 1/2 x 10 inch limit for recruiting materials because the wrestler would not be taking it home.
The NCAA disagreed.
On the same weekend, the wrestling program allowed the same recruiting target to have pictures taken with a smoke machine after a match. OSU said the program was aware of the “three prongs” that comprise a not-permitted game-day simulation per NCAA bylaws, such as running onto the field or court with teams during introductions. However, it was unaware the smoke machine counted as one of those prongs, as it was not specifically mentioned.
Ohio State wrestling took a two-week break from contacting the athlete and educated its staff on game-day simulations. The NCAA additionally took away one of OSU’s recruiting contacts with the athlete.
The self-reports annually provide a glimpse into how easily coaches and other staffers can inadvertently commit minor NCAA infractions.
For instance, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann made permissible contact with a recruiting target at Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While there, he met up with a friend who was a former football coach there. That friend introduced him to the current Snider football coach, who asked Holtmann to introduce himself to the football team.
According to OSU, Holtmann “said a few words to the team” and took pictures with some players. Because football was not in a contact period at the time under the NCAA recruiting calendar, Holtmann’s chat and photo op constituted a violation. If OSU football begins recruiting any Snider players, that episode will count as one of the team’s permissible contacts.
Ohio State’s other self-reported details assembled a collection of misinterpretations and occasional sins of ignorance.
• A Buckeyes football player was deemed ineligible and had to repay $211 to a charity of his choice after inadvertently receiving excessive preseason reimbursements due to a clerical error. The player was reinstated through the NCAA Student‐Athlete Reinstatement Process.
The football program self-reported four violations. None required additional sanctions from the Big Ten or the NCAA, per the report.
• Three programs — football, softball and men’s volleyball — committed violations by sending text messages either to recruiting targets who were not eligible to receive them or when OSU had self-imposed a period of no electronic contact. In the case of softball, OSU reported that the coach merely responded to a text from the player by saying “Awesome. Thanks.”
• Six football recruiting targets on unofficial visits to the Sept. 7, 2019, game against Cincinnati parked without a permit for the entire game in a surface lot that usually only allows temporary parking.
• The men’s ice hockey director of player development Layne Lebel dropped pucks for players during a faceoff drill in practice, which is considered a coaching activity in which he was not allowed to participate.
• A men’s basketball intern was fired for filming a basketball tournament in Dayton and posting the highlights to a personal social media account.
• A former men’s basketball assistant observed the practice of a team that did not qualify as a secondary school. The Buckeyes gave up two recruiting days.
• Women’s golf paid a $500 fine and was prohibited from foreign competition for two additional years because it participated in tournaments in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas in consecutive years. Such competitions are allowed only once every four years.
• A member of the women’s basketball program participated in a non-coaching capacity with an AAU team for seven practices and eight games. That cost the program recruiting days through July 31, 2020.
• Two lacrosse recruits did not pay for meals on their unofficial visits totaling $100 because the coaches miscommunicated as to who was supposed to collect payment.
• A women’s golf recruiting prospect listed a graduation year of 2020 on her questionnaire. Yet she was actually in the class of 2022, so when the coach responded to the golfer by email, the coach committed a violation.
Some of the violations may no longer be violations in the future — or may be more easily avoided — thanks to pending “Name, Image and Likeness” compensation reform being considered by the NCAA.
• A men’s basketball player and a track athlete used a videographer to post highlight videos and photos. The basketball athlete did not pay the going rate for those services. Both were declared ineligible but were later reinstated by the NCAA’s clearance process.
• A women’s basketball player impermissibly promoted a local business when she “reposted a picture” and “added promotional language.” She was declared ineligible but reinstated through the NCAA’s clearance process.
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