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College basketball

Ohio State fires basketball coach over payment to recruit

By Associated Press
Published June 9, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State fired basketball coach Jim O'Brien on Tuesday after he admitted giving a recruit $6,000 five years ago.

Athletic director Andy Geiger said he offered O'Brien the opportunity to resign but the coach refused.

"I am troubled that a rule was admittedly violated and it took us five years to find out about it," Geiger said.

In a statement released through his attorney, O'Brien did not dispute he helped potential recruit Aleksandar Radojevic.

"I am advised that my firing is because I was asked to and tried to give assistance to a young man's family who was in dire financial straits," said O'Brien, who was 133-88 in seven seasons as Ohio State's coach. "The assistance in no way influenced the young man in his decision to attend OSU and, indeed, the young man did not enroll at OSU."

Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 center from Yugoslavia, was recruited and signed by O'Brien. Before he played for Ohio State, however, the NCAA ruled he was ineligible for accepting $13,000 from a professional team in Europe.

Radojevic then entered the NBA draft and was taken with the No. 12 pick by the Toronto Raptors. He played for Denver and Milwaukee before being cut by the Bucks in 2001.

Ohio State learned of O'Brien's payment to Radojevic through a lawsuit against O'Brien by a woman who said she provided housing, meals and clothes for another Ohio State recruit from the same war-torn area, Slobodan Savovic. He played four years with the Buckeyes, including the team that made the 1999 Final Four under O'Brien.

The lawsuit says then-Ohio State assistant Paul Biancardi, now the coach at Wright State, also handled money for Savovic and Radojevic.

Biancardi was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Kay Hawes, an associate director of media relations with the NCAA, said the NCAA is investigating O'Brien and the Ohio State basketball program.

Geiger said associate head coach Rick Boyages would take over on an interim basis.

TENNIS: Stanford sophomore Amber Liu won the Honda Award as the nation's top player.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]

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