Thursday, July 31, 2003

NCAA looks at Clarett's theft report

But RB now says he inflated value of stolen items

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The NCAA has investigated a police report filed by Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett about cash and thousands of dollars of stereo equipment stolen from a car he was driving.

It's not unusual the NCAA would make such an inquiry because of the expense of the items, athletic director Andy Geiger said Wednesday.

But late Wednesday night, OSU released a statement from Clarett and his attorney, saying Clarett had inflated the value of the stolen items.

"It is true that on or about April 17, 2003, Maurice Clarett used a borrowed vehicle to attend a morning workout at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center," attorney Scott Schiff said in the statement. "This vehicle was broken into sometime during his workout. Upon learning of the break-in, Maurice filed a theft report with the OSU police. Many of the expensive items identified in the report did not belong to Maurice, but belonged to the vehicle owner. Maurice did exaggerate and inflate the values he placed upon the reported items."

The April police report was the subject of meetings NCAA officials had with Clarett earlier this month, Geiger said. He said he couldn't comment on the investigation.

The Ohio State police report says the car was broken into April 17 or 18 and that thieves stole two built-in television monitors and stereo equipment worth $5,000; $800 in cash; $300 in clothing; and 300 compact discs.

"I genuinely and sincerely apologize to my teammates and to The Ohio State University for any embarrassment this incident may have caused," Clarett said in the release.

The license plate on the car during the theft is registered to The Car Store Inc., a small dealership on the city's north side, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It was not clear who owned the vehicle then.

The OSU statement concluded by saying: "Sophomore running back Maurice Clarett will not participate in preseason football camp until, and unless, all issues related to his eligibility regarding his amateur status have been resolved."

'HALO RULE' OUT: College football will eliminate the "halo rule" this season, forcing punt returners to call a fair catch if they don't want to be hit.

"I always felt like if a guy wanted protection, all he had to do was hold his hand up," Bobby Gaston, the coordinator of officials in the Southeastern Conference, said Wednesday.

Under the halo rule, the kicking team was penalized if a player came within 2 yards of a returner before he caught the ball. The rule led to many borderline penalties and gave the returner a cushion as he tried to get away from the initial tackle.

This year, a returner must be given only an "unimpeded opportunity" to catch the ball, which is more in line with the NFL rule. The penalty for failing to do that or for contacting a player who has signaled for a fair catch will be 15 yards.

The other significant rule change allows teams to enforce an unsportsmanlike penalty after a touchdown on a kickoff instead of the extra point.

The new rule will force a team to kick off from the 20 or allow it to kick off from midfield, making a significant difference in field position, especially late in a game.

KENTUCKY: Andre Jones, who signed with Kentucky in 2002 but did not meet eligibility requirements last season, has re-signed with the Wildcats.

Two other players are no longer on the team, however. Defensive lineman Bennie Mills and offensive tackle Yancey Reynolds are not listed on the Kentucky roster released this week. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks confirmed they are no longer on the team but wouldn't comment further, citing student privacy laws.

NOTRE DAME: Prosecutors have dropped a charge of battery against a Notre Dame football recruit who allegedly pushed a police officer and ran when officers raided a house where he and 10 other people were charged with underage drinking.

Jeff Samardzija, 18, a wide receiver from Valparaiso High School, still faces charges of resisting arrest and illegal consumption of alcohol.

OOPS: A large crocodile - and not the school's namesake alligator mascot - is featured on the cover of the University of Florida's 2003 football media guide.

A photo of Florida coach Ron Zook leading the team onto the field is superimposed over the olive green crocodile. The words "Florida" and "2003 Football Guide" also appear on the front, but the word "Gators" is absent.

Florida spokesman Steve McClain said he regrets the error.

"We asked for an alligator, we paid for an alligator and unfortunately we did not get an alligator," McClain told The Associated Press. "It's unfortunate. It's somewhat embarrassing obviously, but the bottom line is we thought we were getting an alligator."

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