Ohio State will be required to pay O’Brien almost 3 million dollars in the settlement.
O’Brien may have won the court battle; however, he did nothing to clear his name in the court of public opinion. If anything, the long legal battle hurt his reputation.
In April of 2004, Jim O’Brien was forced to disclose the payment of $6,000 to Aleksandar Radojevic. Radojevic, a 7’3” center, was being recruited by O’Brien at the time. Radojevic never signed with Ohio State.
O’Brien was forced to disclose the payment to Radojevic because of a lawsuit by Kathleen Salyers. The lawsuit centered on the improper benefits Boban Savovic received; however, the $6,000 payment to Radojevic was mentioned in the suit. At this point O’Brien had no choice and had to come clean to Andy Geiger, the former Ohio State Athletic Director.
On June 8th, 2004 Andy Geiger fired Jim O’Brien for violation of NCAA rules. O’Brien file’s a lawsuit against Ohio State for wrongful termination and eventually wins a settlement of $2.2 million dollars plus interest in February of 2006. Interesting enough, in the judgment the court ruled that O’Brien violated his contract; however, the violation was not serious enough to warrant his dismissal.
The NCAA did not agree with the court. The NCAA put severe limitations on any university that hired O’Brien until 2009. The NCAA also put Ohio State on probation for 3 years and required the university to remove the trip to the Final Four in 1999 from the record books.
Ohio State may have lost the lawsuit; however, Jim O’Brien is the real loser. O’Brien misled the Ohio State administration about his involvement in the $6,000 payment. He also misled the administration about his involvement in the Boban Savovic suit. It is safe to say O’Brien’s coaching career was over when he decided to sue Ohio State.
Andy Geiger did the right thing by getting rid of O’Brien right away. The NCAA compliance department has many confusing bylaws and rules. Giving student-athlete’s money is not one of them.
Jim O’Brien claims he gave the money to Radojevic because the family just lost their father and the Radojevic’s mother was unable to provide for their 3 siblings. The fact of the matter is O’Brien got caught trying to cover it up and only told the truth when his back was against a wall.
I caution any college institution looking for a coach to avoid the O’Brien charm. The NCAA recently changed the terms allowing O’Brien to return to coaching this year without any imposed restrictions. This was only done because they had to throw out 3 of the allegations on a deadline technicality.
Jim O’Brien is a liar and a cheat. No lawsuit or legal judgment can fix O’Brien’s integrity. Enjoy Ohio State’s money; you may need it because I doubt anyone will hire a cheater.
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