Judge rules in favor of O’Brien
Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – A judge in the Ohio Court of Claims ruled on
Wednesday that Ohio State University did not have cause to fire former head
men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien after he admitted loaning a recruit’s
Judge Joseph Clark ruled that although O’Brien had breached his contract by
giving out the loan, the single incident was isolated and not severe enough
“Because the breach by plaintiff was not a material breach, defendant did not
have cause to terminate plaintiff’s employment,” wrote Clark. “Defendant’s
decision to do so without any compensation to plaintiff was a breach of the
“The court decided that the coach’s breach of trust did not warrant his
dismissal. The university respectfully disagrees with that view,” said Ohio
State vice president and general counsel Christopher Culley.
O’Brien had sued the school for $3.5 million but the actual amount he will
receive will be set after the damages phase of the trail, which is to be
O’Brien, who was fired by Ohio State in June of 2004, admitted to loaning the
mother of a former recruit the money.
“As a member of the NCAA, fully supporting its values, Ohio State works
diligently to follow that organization’s highest standards and adheres
strictly to NCAA bylaws,” Ohio State president Karen Holbrook said. “In this
matter we have acted forthrightly in compliance with NCAA rules and in the
best interests of the athletics program and the university.”
In 1998, O’Brien was attempting to recruit Aleksander Radojevic from Serbia.
Later that year, O’Brien learned that Radojevic’s mother was having financial
trouble following the death of Radojevic’s father, prompting O’Brien to send
O’Brien argued the loan did not violate NCAA rules because Radojevic had
surrendered his amateur status in 1996 after he had signed a contract to play
professional basketball for a Yugoslavian team.
Radojevic was later declared ineligible and never played for the Buckeyes. He
entered the NBA draft in 1999 and was selected with the 12th pick by the
During the lawsuit, O’Brien admitted to informing then Ohio State athletic
director Andy Geiger about the loan in April of 2004. Then, in June, O’Brien
was notified by Geiger of his firing, which was later made official at a news
O’Brien was given the choice to resign, but he refused. He had five years left
on his contract that would have paid him $864,000 per year.
During his seven-year tenure with Ohio State, O’Brien 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.