Friday, March 26, 1999

OSU lodging a complex situation

The Associated Press

        ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While the other three teams in the Final Four are staying at resort hotels, Ohio State checked into a remote, gated complex Thursday that is surrounded by 6-foot wire fences and lots of security.

        Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger and coach Jim O'Brien said they were looking for a “buffer” from fans before the Buckeyes meet Connecticut in the national semifinals Saturday night.

        “At something like this, when you're trooping through hotel lobbies all the time, there are times when it's wise to maybe have just a little bit of distance,” Geiger said, speaking through a chain-link fence.

        He said the Buckeyes were being protected from “well-meaning boosters making mistakes, agents, gambling — heaven knows what. We just want a little tiny bit of a buffer and a little bit of privacy.”

        Reporters attempting to check on the team after its arrival Thursday afternoon from Columbus were threatened with trespassing charges by guards with walkie-talkies. No fans were permitted into the gated enclave, which has few signs identifying it from the two-lane roads on its border.

        There were construction vehicles and large piles of dirt around the complex. The first phase of the development has been open for three weeks.

        The team originally was scheduled to stay at the Tampa Airport Hilton.

        Asked why it was switched to the townhouse condominiums, coach Jim O'Brien said: “Because it's too, too busy in there (the hotel), too crazy. It has nothing to do with being paranoid.”

        Reporters who arrived at a back gate were turned away by two uniformed security guards, one of whom said, “You're not welcome here.”

        O'Brien said his players wouldn't be restricted from being around fans.

        “They're going to be able to do that tonight after going down to dinner and then they're going to be bouncing around the convention center for a couple of hours, where all the activity is. We're not shielding them from all of that,” he said.


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