Ohio State files brief in O'Brien appeal
COLUMBUS – The Ohio State University today filed its brief with the 10th District Court of Appeals regarding the dismissal of former men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien. Also today, 18 universities and the Big Ten, Pacific 10 and Big 12 conferences filed a separate friend-of-the-court brief, urging a reversal of the Court of Claims decision.
Universities joining the friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the University of Michigan included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Arizona, Arizona State, Southern California, Stanford, Arkansas, Mississippi, Notre Dame and Texas.
In the university's brief regarding its appeal, Ohio State said that the Court of Claims erred by holding that O'Brien did not materially breach his employment contract which clearly and unmistakably required that he run a clean and compliant program and immediately report any NCAA violations. Instead, O'Brien gave an impermissible $6,000 cash inducement to the family of a basketball recruit in 1998 and then failed to report that violation to the university for more than five years.
The university says that the Court of Claims also erred by not taking into account the evidence acquired after Coach O'Brien's dismissal, as confirmed by the NCAA in March 2006.
The amici brief argues that the lower court's ruling limits "the ability of an NCAA member institution to effectively fulfill its own obligations to the NCAA" and restricts a university's ability to properly discipline employees who violate such rules. The brief also cites that "NCAA member institutions must now choose between taking meaningful action to correct NCAA rules violations and avoid further violations, and avoiding contract damages to a coach who has shown a blatant disregard for the best interests of the institution and its student athletes."
Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled that O'Brien committed "blatant" rule violations and imposed a number of sanctions against the men's basketball program. Those sanctions included the removal of the men's basketball team's record for that period, which included two Big Ten Championships (2000 and 2002) and an appearance in the Final Four (1999). In addition, the NCAA also placed all Ohio State sports programs on probation for three years, banned the men's basketball team from post-season play for one year and reduced the number of men's basketball scholarships.
Ohio State is being represented by the Ohio Attorney General and the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. After briefing to the Court of Appeals is completed, an oral argument will be scheduled.
Brief Amici Curiae (pdf)