Lawsuit says O’Brien knew about aid to player
Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – A current lawsuit that led to the dismissal
of Ohio State men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien is claiming that the former
coach and an assistant were aware that a player received regular payments
and classroom help.
Kathleen Salyers, who said she housed and fed former Buckeye Boban Savovic for
two years, testified in a deposition in April. In her testimony, Salyers
claims she spent thousands of dollars on phone bills, car insurance and
spending cash for Savovic, who was a member of the 1998-99 team that reached
the Final Four.
According to Salyers, former assistant coach Paul Biancardi regularly
contacted her about Savovic and said he was instructed to call by O’Brien.
The Buckeyes fired O’Brien this past Tuesday due to a violation of NCAA
bylaws. In 1998, O’Brien attempted to recruit Aleksander Radojevic from
Serbia, but he became aware that the player’s mother was in need of
assistance. He sent the mother a financial payment of $6,000 to help her out,
but Radojevic eventually decided not to attend the university and was later
ruled ineligible because he had been paid to play basketball in Europe. He
entered the 1999 NBA Draft and was chosen by the Toronto Raptors with the 12th
pick in the first round.
Athletic director Andy Geiger learned about the incident after Salyers
mentioned it in her lawsuit. Salyers said she was seeking $510,000 in expenses
and damages from Ohio State boosters after she did not receive the $1,000 per
month plus expenses she was promised by Savovic’s sponsors.
Biancardi, who is now the head coach at Wright State, along with O’Brien,
denied the allegations.
O’Brien’s attorney, Jim Zeszutek, says that the money given to Radojevic was a
loan and the star intended to pay O’Brien back. Salyers, though, did say in
her statement that she kept more than $6,000 from Radojevic that was given to
her to re-pay O’Brien. Salyers claims that nobody from Ohio State came by to
get it, so after several months she applied the money to her mortgage payment.
Salyers also said that she was a babysitter of the Roslovics, Bobovic’s
sponsors, and agreed to house Bobovic after she was told that the player could
no longer stay with the Roslovics because of NCAA rules violations. Salyers
then went on to say that Biancardi instructed her to lie and say Savovic was
staying in the house because he was a friend of Salyers’ son and the two
played basketball together.
The sworn statement went on to say that Salyers did most of Savovic’s homework
since he had trouble grasping the English language. She also alleged that she
gave the former Buckeye roughly $24,000 total and often put the cash in
Savovic’s medicine chest because he was not comfortable to take it directly.
During the deposition, Salyers provided receipts including Savovic’s car
insurance bills, phone bills and international taxes. She claimed that he had
a booster and a sexual relationship and ran up a phone bill of over $10,000
from a phone card belonging to an agent.
The 54-year-old O’Brien became the 12th head coach in school history prior to
the 1997-98 season and during his seven-year tenure with Ohio State, he
compiled a 133-88 record, including leading his club to a share of the
Big 10 regular season title in 1999-2000 and 2001-02. This past season,
the Buckeyes were just 14-16 and 6-10 in conference play.
Rick Boyages was named the team’s interim head coach.