September 5, 2002 at 8:34 PM EST - Updated July 2 at 11:40 PM
By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Athletic director Andy Geiger said Thursday he is pleased with the direction of the Ohio State football team despite a recent spate of legal problems, blaming much of the bad publicity surrounding the program on "bored" reporters.
"That's not epidemic by any stretch of the imagination," Geiger said of the off-the-field matters dogging the No. 8-ranked Buckeyes, who play Kent State on Saturday. "I'm not at all disturbed."
Several players expected to be front-line players for the Buckeyes have run into legal or disciplinary problems in recent weeks.
Fullback Branden Joe and defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock have been practicing with the team and are available to play Saturday.
Joe was arrested in July and charged with drunken driving and Pitcock in August was charged with underage drinking.
Flanker Chris Vance, the team's second-leading receiver a year ago, was held out of Ohio State's Aug. 24 opener against Texas Tech by head coach Jim Tressel because of an unspecified violation of team policy that occurred last winter.
Backup wide receiver Angelo Chattams was excused from the team earlier this week. He may face charges in the theft of a set of golf clubs in July, prosecutors said. They have approved but have not filed a theft charge, opening the door for Chattams to avoid a charge by enrolling in a program for nonviolent, first-time offenders.
"It's a distraction at the time it arises," Tressel said. "It's a distraction as you contemplate what's the next step."
Chattams' status with the team was being evaluated.
Geiger said reporters have made too much of the discipline problems with football players.
"I think you're bored. I think things are going really, really well," he said. "Somebody opened the question-and-answer period after the Texas Tech game with, 'This was a good game considering all the distractions ...' You guys are the ones who are distracted. There isn't anybody in the football program that's distracted."
Geiger hired Tressel to replace John Cooper, who was fired in January of 2001. Cooper's players were accused of a number of problems off the field and in the classroom.
Geiger said one reason why it seems as if Ohio State players are getting into trouble more in recent weeks is that their problems are being handled differently by Tressel and his staff.
"John never sat anybody down," Geiger said. "It all comes out on game week because we don't let the kids play if they do stuff they're not supposed to do."
Vance, Joe, Pitcock and linebacker Redgie Arden were all held out of the Texas Tech game.
During his weekly news conference this week, Tressel said he and his staff are constantly preaching to the players that there are dangers whenever the players are out in public.
"There are some real perils out there in this world," he said. "We have something that our players snicker at sometimes but we happen to think is true: 'Not much good or nothing good ever happens past 10 (o'clock).'"
Geiger said the cumulative grade-point average of current football players "is so much higher it's almost impossible to compare it" with that of previous Ohio State teams.
He said he was very pleased with the direction Tressel was taking the team.
"It's all about Columbus and football and the higher standard and the higher expectations. We understand that. We deal with that," Geiger said. "But I'm telling you that I'm absolutely delighted with the way such things are being handled and the discipline and the consequences that kids face for doing what they do. That's part of the new day. That's part of what I expected him to do."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)