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December 28, 2004

Dispatch: Booster gave Troy Smith cash

The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday morning that the suspension of Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith from the Alamo Bowl stemmed from a relationship he had with a Springfield, Ohio, businessman. That relationship allegedly involved giving Smith cash and the arrangement of a job.

The investigation into possible malfeasance involving Robert Q. Baker began in earnest Dec. 9 when a lawyer at the company Baker founded called Ohio State.

"It certainly had a smell to it," Geoffrey Webster, an attorney at Columbus' Poly-Care Services, told The Dispatch. The west side company is a provider of health-care products.

OSU athletic director Andy Geiger said he could not comment on the investigation. Smith is under a gag order from the university. Baker did not return phone calls made by The Dispatch.

Webster blew the whistle after being given conduct reports on the Baker matter from employees. Baker left Poly-Care in the interim.

One employee, in an incident report obtained by the Columbus newspaper, spoke of hearing Baker talk about an Ohio State player after the player visited the office this past spring and left with an envelope.

After giving Smith the envelope, he sought assurances that there were no strings attached.

"Now I own him," the report quoted Baker as saying.

According to the reports filed, Baker also approached another Poly-Care employee about finding jobs for Smith and freshman running back Antonio Pittman. They never filled out applications or put in any hours.

Baker is a suite holder at Ohio Stadium.

If the Poly-Care name rings a bell, it may because in July 2003, former OSU and current Carolina Panther player Chris Gamble told reporters that he was employed by the company to gladhand clients. The Dayton Daily News, in fact, spoke to him while he signed autographs at a pair of Dayton-area nursing homes.

"(Gamble) comes from a very good family, and this is something he did last year ... He's very warm and very genuine at the same time," Baker told the Springfield News-Sun

OSU later came to the conclusion that Gamble had not broken any NCAA rules.


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