USC officials stand by Ohio State hire

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 8, 2012 

The groans rose from Twitter and internet forums soon after Chris Rogers was named South Carolina’s new athletics compliance director.

Rogers spent the past five years overseeing the Ohio State football program, which was slapped with a postseason ban in December by the NCAA for various transgressions — players trading gear and rings for tattoos; football coach Jim Tressel failing to share with the NCAA warnings about the violations; and a Cleveland businessman who gave players cash.

“I’m sure this guy won’t let any tomfoolery slip under his nose. #sarcastictweet,” one USC fan wrote on Twitter.

“I scratched my head, read it again then smacked my forehead,” another wrote on GoGamecocks.com.

But Rogers said his experience at Ohio State gives him insight — and he will get to use it right away.

The former Minnesota cross-country and track runner will accompany South Carolina officials — including university president Harris Pastides and football coach Steve Spurrier — to Los Angeles next week for an NCAA Committee on Infractions hearing regarding allegations involving USC athletes and recruits.

“The most high-profile schools tend to have the most issues, and because of that, you tend to have the best people looking at those issues,” Rogers said. “At the end of the day, do you want someone like me, who has been in the trenches and seen what you have to do, or do you want some who is dealing with it for the first time?”

Rogers will replace Jennifer Stiles, who was demoted as part of the school’s self-imposed sanctions. Stiles still works in the department, though her salary was reduced by 15 percent. Van Horn oversaw compliance on an interim basis.

In the Ohio State case, the NCAA infractions committee also cited Buckeyes’ compliance department for failing to monitor the activities of the unnamed Cleveland businessman. But no one from the department was sanctioned, according to the NCAA report.

Judy Van Horn, USC’s senior associate athletics director who helped hire the new compliance director, said she received several good references on Rogers, including one with knowledge of the NCAA’s Ohio State investigation.

“I was assured that he had no involvement in the problems at Ohio State,” Van Horn said.

At South Carolina, Rogers will run a 10-person department that oversees more than 500 athletes and 65 coaches. He will report to Pastides and athletics director Eric Hyman.

Van Horn said Ohio State had a detailed monitoring system, something she wants Rogers to bring to Columbia.

Rogers knew Van Horn while she worked at Michigan for nine years. She left Ann Arbor last year and had received a letter of reprimand from the school regarding the investigation into the practice violations committed by former Wolverines football coach Rich Rodriguez.

At Ohio State, Rogers — who also worked at Utah and Minnesota — drafted documents and interviewed student-athletes associated with the infractions case.

“The best compliance directors in the business come out of institutions with major infractions,” Van Horn said. “You learn by going through the burning flames of the fires you walk through.

“We have all the benefits of his experience. And you get what they have learned on someone else’s dime and someone else’s time.”

South Carolina is not disputing last year’s NCAA allegations that some athletes and recruits were provided more than $50,000 in improper benefits during two separate incidents or that the school failed to properly monitor those issues.

Rogers said he does not know what penalties the NCAA will hand USC. Schools once could use other punishments in similar cases as a guide, he said. Now, the committee’s decision-making is “in flux,” the Moorhead, Minn., native said.

The NCAA infractions committee banned Ohio State from going to a bowl game next season after the school had self-imposed restrictions, including cutting scholarships.

USC has volunteered to cut six football scholarships, cut official recruiting visits and go on three years of probation.

“At the end of the day, I want to be able to go home and say, ‘I did everything I could do in the best interest of South Carolina,’” Rogers said.

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