from the AP :

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A judge ruled Wednesday that Ohio State improperly fired basketball coach Jim O’Brien in 2004 after university officials learned he had loaned money to a recruit.

O’Brien (above) broke his contract by giving the $6,000 loan, but the error was not serious enough to warrant firing, Ohio Court of Claims Judge Joseph T. Clark said, finding in O’Brien’s favor in the coach’s lawsuit against the university.

“Because plaintiff’s failure of performance was not material, defendant did not have cause for termination,” the judge wrote.

O’Brien sued the university for $3.5 million in lost wages and benefits after he was fired in June 2004. With interest and other damages, he could receive nearly $9.5 million. Damages will be determined after another hearing.

The coach, who led Ohio State to the Final Four in 1999, had argued that the personal loan to Aleksandar Radojevic (above), a 7-foot-3 prospect from Serbia, was not a violation because he knew Radojevic already had forfeited his amateur status by playing professionally.

Radojevic never played for the Buckeyes, and O’Brien said he didn’t tell university officials because it was a moot point.

In his lawsuit, O’Brien contended he was fired before any investigation could even determine if he had broken NCAA rules. A provision of his contract said the NCAA had to rule on alleged violations before he could be fired for that reason.