Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Clarett focus of NCAA inquiry

Link between OSU star, James investigated

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The NCAA has made inquiries about Ohio State star Maurice Clarett that are not related to questions about the football player's academic conduct, athletic director Andy Geiger said.

The Columbus Dispatch, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that NCAA investigators have met with Clarett to ask about several gifts, including some that may have come from LeBron James.

Playing with the Cavaliers at the Boston summer league, James was asked whether he had let Clarett drive his sport utility vehicle and whether he had attended an adidas camp with Clarett. He shook his head "no" to both questions Monday night.

"That's a great friend of mine. Before him being a Heisman candidate, before me being how I am. I knew him when he was at Warren Harding, so he's a great kid," James said.

James' agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he did not know if James had been contacted by the NCAA.

"Nothing improper has happened between LeBron and Maurice," Goodwin said.

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard, citing association policy, declined comment Monday.

Geiger said at a news conference Sunday that the NCAA's questioning of Clarett had nothing to do with a New York Times report that the running back had received preferential treatment in a class by being allowed to take two oral exams.

The inquiry concerns whether someone else could be using James to help establish an agent relationship with Clarett in the future, The Dispatch said. The newspaper reported that Clarett's answers appeared to satisfy the investigators.

In a statement released through his attorney, Clarett said he was "disappointed" in the story.

"Yes, college has been difficult for me sometimes, like it is for lots of freshmen," he said. "I respect professor Pierce, and I appreciated the assistance she gave me. I do not believe I broke any rules in receiving that assistance."

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