In his 26-year career as an athletic director at Brown, Penn, Stanford, Maryland and Ohio State, Andy Geiger has proved to be one of the best sports administrators in the nation. One seemingly small but significant change that he has made in his two years at Ohio State bears out his fair-mindedness. Geiger has added in-state schools Toledo (in 1998), Cincinnati ('99), Miami of Ohio (2000) and Akron ('01) to the Buckeyes' home football schedule and will probably continue to include them and other intrastate opponents thereafter.
Ohio State played Bowling Green in 1992, but for the most part previous administrations had balked at scheduling games against in-state rivals. Though they wouldn't admit it publicly, the administrators feared that the smaller institutions would benefit from the cash (a game at Ohio Stadium guarantees the visiting team $350,000-$400,000; a Mid-American Conference team typically clears $100,000 for a home game) and publicity to lure instate recruits away from Columbus. And there was always the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime upset turning the Buckeyes into an Ohio laughingstock. "If we're not above that sort of thing, and if we're afraid of a school just because it's in the same state," says Geiger, "then we better take a long look in the mirror. We have an interest in keeping football alive and well in our own state, and this is one way we can do it."
Though their chances of an upset are small and though Geiger is not generous enough to have offered home-and-home series, the opponents couldn't be happier. "It gives us prestige and a chance for every Ohio kid on our roster to fulfill a lifetime goal to play at Columbus," says Akron athletic director Michael Bobinski. "It's a very significant gesture by Andy."
A Conflict for the Ages
To the distressingly large number of adults who find a way to mess up sports for kids, add the name of Rob Pyznarski, a Chicago police detective and president of Youth Ball Hockey Inc., a street hockey league in the south suburbs of Chicago. About 300 kids on 20 teams in three age groups (8-10, 11-13 and 14-16) competed in the program this winter, and 56 of them were chosen to play on one of Youth Ball Hockey's three all-star teams in a tournament in Pittsburgh last month. Before the tournament began, however, Pyznarski discovered that the Pittsburgh teams were slightly younger (the age groups were 7-9, 10-12 and 13-15). No problem for Pyznarski. When filling out official rosters for the teams, he lowered the ages of many of the players. On one, for example, he misrepresented nine of 15 birth dates, in each case making the player a year or two younger than he was, without informing the player or his parents.
"It was a joke," says Jay Henry, who drove to the tournament with his 13-year-old son, Kevin, one of the Chicago all-stars. "You knew something was wrong just looking at the teams on the floor." Says another parent, who did not want her name used, "I felt we were disgracing Chicago."
The Chicago parents found out that the birth dates had been falsified when they confronted Pyznarski after some of the players were challenged on their ages by tournament officials. Embarrassed and angry, they then withdrew their teams from the tournament.
And what was Pyznarski's response to the subsequent brouhaha? As they say on NYPD Blue, he "lawyered up" and would not answer questions. What made the parents particularly angry was Pyznarski's lack of remorse. "He told me if I didn't like the way he ran things, I could take my kid and go home," Michelle Keller, who drove to Pittsburgh with her nine-year-old son, Luke, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Henry, meanwhile, says that when he confronted Pyznarski, the Youth Ball Hockey president told him, "We should go outside and settle things like men."
The saddest aspect of all this is the message it sent kids. "You should've seen my son hanging his head," says Keller. "He said to me, 'How can the coach cheat and lie?' "