June 9, 2011

Matta comfortable with state of program

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - With all the recent commotion surrounding the Ohio State football program, Buckeye basketball coach Thad Matta would be remiss to not think twice about things are being done on his end of things.

In the last 10 days Ohio State's football program saw Jim Tressel resign as head coach and quarterback Terrelle Pryor walk way from the program before his senior season, both facing NCAA investigations.

Matta met with the media Wednesday - just a day after Pryor announced he would not be returning to Ohio State - and the basketball coach couldn't have been more comfortable with the state of his program.

Despite ongoing investigations into the football program, Matta confirmed the NCAA has done no digging into the basketball program despite being in or around the area.

Matta has done nothing different since he caught wind of the football program's situation, but vowed the players on his team are kept aware of prominent issues involving the NCAA and potential violations.

"I think we have always tried to be as thorough as we possibly can with everything that we do," said Matta, who led his Buckeyes to the Sweet 16 a year ago. "Obviously we have talked to our players as things unfold to make sure we do the right things and we do it the right way."

Much like Tressel did in his 10 years guiding the Buckeye football team, Matta has found great success in the recruitment of top high school athletes into his program.

Most recently Matta landed one of the most coveted recruits in the nation in Jared Sullinger, who was named the national freshman of the year after his first season as a Buckeye last year.

Sullinger, who announced he would turn down a likely NBA Lottery pick to return to Ohio State for his sophomore season, could be a target for similar people Pryor became involved with. However, he's not the only one.

In a recent investigation done by the Columbus Dispatch into a potential scandal were Ohio State athletes could be receiving discounts on cars at a local dealership, it was William Buford's name that was found in the report.

Matta looked into the situation and found that Buford had legitimately purchased his car.

"(Buford) and Jon (Diebler) both bought cars (at the dealership) but everything is legit," Matta said. "If you saw the cars they brought (you wouldn't worry)."

Matta has been lucky enough to avoid major violations in his eight years in Columbus after taking over the program coming off a major violation committed by former head coach Jim O'Brien.

But it isn't always the doing of the coach that could lead down that path, Matta acknowledged. Helping Ohio State get back on track with the compliance department was one of Matta's biggest concerns when taking the job.

"Our guys back then were missing class to save up energy for the games," Matta said looking back to when he accepted the job. "I think that's something we tried to do from the standpoint of tightening our circle (and) moving guys back onto campus.

"We check out where they are living. We want them as close to campus as possible. The main thing I wanted when doing all of that is that making sure all of our guys were together and trying to build the culture we were trying to build."

Though Tressel eventually resigned at Ohio State after it was found that he had previous knowledge of violations and decided not to come forward with that information, it was the players who became involved with the wrong people in the community on their own.

"I think college athletics across the board have become a monster," Matta said. "Trying to make sure you do things the right way and be as thorough as you possibly can in what you're attempting to do (is important).

"We have a job to do and I feel very confident in how we have done the job to this point and we are going to continue to do it the exact same way."

Though Tressel's era had come to a premature end, Matta has had nothing but utmost respect for the former football coach. He issues one final statement in regards to Tressel on Wednesday.

"I think this - and I have said this many times before. Coach has probably been as big of (an influence) on our program as anybody dating back to eight years ago when I came here (with) the help he has provided me, our program. Obviously I hate to see the way things ended.

"I do know this about him, when we tip off he is going to be rooting as hard as he possibly can for our team to be successful and that means a lot to me."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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