Three members of Ohio State's acclaimed football recruiting class have been turned away by the school's admissions office because of academic deficiencies and the NCAA has declared three others ineligible.
That eliminates a quarter of the 24 recruits who were supposed to report on Wednesday.
"This is the first time since I've been at Ohio State that I think we've had outright denials by admissions," athletics director Andy Geiger said from the Big Ten football meetings in Chicago. Geiger has been at Ohio State since April 1994.
Ohio State coach John Cooper declined to comment to reporters in Chicago.
The university's admissions office refused the applications of defensive back Ziyier Walker of Fork Union (Va.) Academy, running back Richard Hall of Wyoming, Ohio, and receiver Maurice Harris of Jacksonville, Fla.
"The burden of proof is on the recruiters and on the athletic department to present candidates that can qualify for admission," Geiger said. "In every situation there are gatekeepers and in this case the gatekeepers felt that these young people would have problems doing the work at Ohio State."
Offensive lineman Bryce Bishop of Miami perhaps the most touted of the incoming freshmen was expected to compete for playing time immediately, particularly after two-time All-American offensive lineman Rob Murphy flunked out of school this spring.
But Bishop, defensive back Curtis Crosby of Columbus' Eastmoor High School and receiver Maurice Lee of Cleveland South all were turned down by the NCAA's clearinghouse that determines freshman eligibility.
Asked if any of the six could be available to play this fall, Geiger said, "I don't think so, but I don't know for sure."
The loss of the six players is the latest in a series of academic problems for Ohio State football players.
Three starters linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, defensive back Damon Moore and Murphy had to pass second-term summer-school classes in order to be eligible last season. Two other players who were expected to be top substitutes, linebacker Chris Kirk and defensive tackle Paris Long, also encountered academic problems, although Kirk later returned to the team and both are set to play this fall.
Murphy was suspended from the team prior to spring practice because of his grades. He was dismissed from Ohio State in June because of continuing academic shortcomings and later signed to play with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
Geiger said those problems aren't connected to the current ones.
"No, I don't think you should read those problems into it," he said. "Each case is treated individually and I don't think that there's a change in policy because of that. I don't think it's relative to anything else other than the individuals involved."
Katzenmoyer told reporters he was taking classes in music, AIDS awareness and golf in order to become eligile last summer. Several national publications poked fun at his course load and chided Ohio State for the classwork required of football players.
But Geiger said admission standards have not been tightened in response.
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