March 25, 2005

Geiger Airs It Out

The Baltimore Sun caught up with Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger while he was on the east coast watching the Lady Buckeyes play in the NCAA Tournament. Geiger, who will retire in a few weeks, sounded a little bitter about having been hounded from office by ESPN and a habitual liar...

Geiger said he is frustrated that Clarett's allegations continue to get publicity.

"That's part of what I'd had enough of," Geiger said. "That whole episode with a guy who is more than difficult and the fact that what he had to say and what he threw around got traction, that's stunning, because there isn't anything."

Moreover, Geiger said he has tired of what he believes is an alarming trend in American sports, where everyone seems to have an opinion about a matter, whether that opinion is informed or not.

"It's not just sports," Geiger said. "I'm dismayed with where the American culture is going, the dumbing down of the American culture. ... So, private life is for me."...

..."I got to a point where I said, 'Look, I'm 66 years old. I don't need this. I don't want to do this anymore,' " said Geiger.

"They [ESPN commentators] are wannabes, never-weres, failures. They just throw stuff out. They are supposedly our partners, supposedly people that you are doing business with, that the conferences do business with."

(If you aren't registered, the entire article can be viewed at the link below)

As Geiger retires, bitter taste rivals sweet

AD savors achievements at Ohio State, decries growing negative climate


By Milton Kent
Sun Staff

March 25, 2005

COLLEGE PARK - Good times have been hard to come by, of late, for Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger, so the opportunities to watch the NCAA tournament successes of the Buckeyes' men's ice hockey and women's basketball teams are to be savored.

"This is the fun part. This is the gravy. This is why we do this. It's good stuff," said Geiger earlier this week during a day off in the women's basketball tournament.

There hasn't been enough gravy lately for Geiger, who will retire April 15 after 34 years as an athletic director in a variety of spots, from Brown to Penn to Stanford and to Maryland, before leaving in 1994 to head to Columbus.

Geiger announced his retirement in early January, citing a weariness with the climate of college athletics in particular, and the condition of sports in general.

"When you're at a place like Ohio State, the culture there makes it the best place to do what I do and the hardest in many ways," Geiger said. "The expectations are through the roof. It's too important to the state. It's too important to the culture of the state.

"It's 11 years and the intensity and the constant rumors and sniping. You win a national championship, and they're after you. I know they experienced it here after Gary [Williams] won his [men's basketball championship in 2002]. All of a sudden, it's 'You must be doing something that you shouldn't be doing.' The heck with it. Some of my experiences have been bitter."

Indeed, since the Buckeyes won the college football title in the 2002 season, the first at the school in 34 years, things have been less than ideal for Geiger.

After coach Jim O'Brien guided the men's basketball team to the 1999 Final Four, also for the first time since 1968, Geiger was forced to fire O'Brien last June when it was revealed that the coach gave the family of a recruit $6,000. The school took itself out of consideration for postseason play to forestall NCAA sanctions. O'Brien has sued Ohio State for wrongful termination.

Ohio State faced continued scrutiny over the recruiting and handling of former running back Maurice Clarett, who led the Buckeyes in rushing in that championship season. Clarett has alleged that football coach Jim Tressel helped him and other players get loaner cars, further alleging that football players were placed in easy courses and given minimal jobs that paid big money.

Clarett was suspended his sophomore season and left the program afterward, unsuccessfully entering the NFL draft last year. The school continues to face an NCAA investigation over those allegations, and the football program was further rocked by the suspension of quarterback Troy Smith for taking cash from a booster last spring. Smith was suspended for the Alamo Bowl last season and could face further sanctions this season.

Geiger said he is frustrated that Clarett's allegations continue to get publicity.

"That's part of what I'd had enough of," Geiger said. "That whole episode with a guy who is more than difficult and the fact that what he had to say and what he threw around got traction, that's stunning, because there isn't anything."

Moreover, Geiger said he has tired of what he believes is an alarming trend in American sports, where everyone seems to have an opinion about a matter, whether that opinion is informed or not.

"It's not just sports," Geiger said. "I'm dismayed with where the American culture is going, the dumbing down of the American culture. ... So, private life is for me."

He is particularly incensed at ESPN, which, he believes, adds to the back-and-forth with its opinion shows. Geiger cited an example of where Doug Gottlieb, an ESPN basketball commentator, wondered aloud on the air recently if Rick Hartzell, a men's basketball referee who is also athletic director at Northern Iowa, would be fair to Big Ten schools whose games he worked given that the Panthers, who got into the NCAA field, were a bubble team.

"I got to a point where I said, 'Look, I'm 66 years old. I don't need this. I don't want to do this anymore,' " said Geiger.

"They [ESPN commentators] are wannabes, never-weres, failures. They just throw stuff out. They are supposedly our partners, supposedly people that you are doing business with, that the conferences do business with."

Geiger also defended his record at Maryland against suggestions that he left his successor, Debbie Yow, with deficits that forced her to make massive cuts when she took over in 1994.

"We did a lot of good things here," said Geiger, who began the renovation of Byrd Stadium. "I came here at a time when there were issues with the basketball violation situation. There was not a lot of enthusiasm for Maryland athletics at that point. ... It was very hard to recruit new business and new money into the program that needed to come."

Geiger acknowledged that he left deficits at Maryland, but he pointed out that state officials passed tuition waivers and forgave a considerable amount of the debt the athletic department had built up when Yow took over, steps that weren't taken for him.

"They wanted to be a Division I-A program without Division I-A resources," Geiger said. "When I left, and they hired a new athletic director, they passed tuition waivers, they forgave a lot of the debt. They stepped up and did some things that for Maryland to compete, they had to have to compete."

Geiger will leave the massive Buckeyes athletic program, the nation's largest with 35 varsity sports and a $91 million budget, in decent financial shape. The department has $7 million in reserve, Geiger said, and within the past seven years, the school has built and opened a $115 million, 19,500-seat basketball/hockey arena and renovated and upgraded Ohio Stadium, the home of the football team, which now seats more than 100,000.

In May, a $26 million swimming facility will open to stand alongside new facilities for lacrosse, baseball, soccer and track and field. All that building, however, comes at a cost, and while the athletic department is completely self-supporting, it also has racked up $200 million in debt, a figure that incoming athletic director Gene Smith said "scared the lights out of me," in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch earlier this month.

Geiger, who will act as a consultant to Smith until June, said he and his wife Eleanor will move to the Pacific Northwest when they leave Columbus and devote time to their sons, Philip, who will enter college in the fall, and Greg, who has a year to go in high school.

Mostly, Geiger will enjoy being out of the roasting pan for the first time in a long time.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun

Posted by dan at March 25, 2005 6:03 PM