- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

From combined dispatches

Ohio State fired basketball coach Jim O’Brien yesterday 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 to step down.

“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 that 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.”

Geiger would not say whether the money was O’Brien’s or came from another source.

“My understanding is it was not the school’s,” Geiger said.

Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 center from Yugoslavia, was recruited and signed by O’Brien. Before he ever 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.

MARYLAND: The Terps football team earned honorable mention from the American Football Coaches Association recently for achieving a graduation rate above 70 percent for the five-year period ending this spring.

Maryland was one of 31 NCAA Division I institutions out of the 94 responding to the AFCA survey which achieved a graduation rate of at least 70 percent. The overall graduation rate for the survey group was 59 percent, similar to the previous year.

According to the AFCA survey, of the 1,154 student-athletes entering as freshmen in the 1998-99 academic year, 23 percent graduated in four years or less, 31 percent required 41/2 years and 34 percent needed five years. Another 12 percent graduated in five-plus years, a period extending through the summer of 2003.

Also, many of Maryland’s outstanding past athletic figures will take part in an autograph signing show sponsored by the university’s M Club from noon to 4p.m. Saturday at Comcast Center. Among former Terrapins expected to participate are Tom Brown, Chet Hanulak, Dick Shiner, Jess Atkinson, Tom McMillen, Frank Costello, Jack Scarbath and Alan Pastrana. Admission is $5 (children under 12 free) and each autograph will cost $5, with proceeds going to the Fear the Turtle Scholarship Fund.

FLORIDA STATE: Women’s basketball player Ronalda Pierce died in the early morning, apparently from an aneurysm that may have resulted from a genetic disease that typically affects tall people.

A friend called 911 and said Pierce, 19, was breathing strangely and couldn’t be awakened at her off-campus apartment. She was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where she died, police said.

Preliminary results from an autopsy indicated that Pierce, who was the tallest player on the Seminoles at 6-foot-5, died because of a ruptured aorta that was caused by an aneurysm, which may have been caused by the hereditary disorder, Marfan syndrome. A final report may take months.

KENTUCKY WESLEYAN: The basketball program, an eight-time national champion in Division II, was put on one-year probation by the Great Lakes Conference because of eligibility violations.

The Panthers will be ineligible for the conference championship, the conference’s postseason tournament and the NCAA tournament.

The action by the Division II league’s Council of Presidents came in a June3 vote. The penalties follow NCAA sanctions handed down last year for two secondary violations, league commissioner Jim Naumovich said.

Kentucky Wesleyan is the winningest program in Division II history, with 1,400 victories.

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