Jim O’Brien Math

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2007

We didn’t go to b-school, but we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  While there we ran into our old friend Jim O’Brien, formerly the head coach at Ohio State and currently sitting on his ass at home banned from the NCAA until 2009 due to recruiting violations during his tenure in Columbus.

He informed us that today the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision requiring THE Ohio State University to pay O’Brien over $2.4M in back-pay stemming from his termination as the head coach there in June 2004.  This case derives from a situation involving a Serbian player in 1998:

Ohio State University and O’Brien both had appealed the ruling by the Ohio Court of Claims last year. Judge Joseph T. Clark ruled in August that although O’Brien acted improperly, he was fired without cause in a breach-of-contract lawsuit.  The Court of Claims said it was not a material breach of O’Brien’s contract when he gave $6,000 to the mother of Alexander Radojevic, a 7-foot-3-inch Serbian basketball recruit in 1998, and for concealing the payment for five years.

If any AD presiding over a college program read this today, it probably sent a quick debilitating shudder down his spine.  Not.  A.  Material.  Breach.  Of.  Contract.  Wow. 

 Jim O’Brien

What this essentially means is that a coach of a sports program (any sports program!) can flagrantly violate the rules of amateurism by providing at least one sizable loan to a recruit or player, and he will not be in material breach of his contract for doing so.  In other words, he cannot be fired for doing this, which provides an even greater incentive to cheat than already existed.  Sure, the NCAA could get involved, but in its typically arbitrary and capricious manner, a coach is just as likely to get a slap on the wrist as he is to get suspended.   

Now, keep in mind this decision by the Ohio court isn’t binding on other jurisdictions outside of that state.  BUT, it is damn persuasive (assuming the Ohio Supreme Court upholds it), and courts around the country could cite this case as authoritative justification to do the same elsewhere.  ADs have a difficult enough job keeping an eye on their coaches and expecting them to do the right thing.  With the knowledge that the O’Briens of the world get one “free pass”  on a recruit or player, their jobs just got precipitously tougher.

Oh, and as for the O’Brien math:    

roi present value

Plug $2,400,000 into the numerator, and $6000 into the denominator, and see what you get… (hint: he’ll be fine until 2009)

rtmsf (3775 Posts)


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