Saturday, August 23, 2003

Clarett suspended indefinitely

OSU star can practice but will miss 'multiple games'

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was cleared to resume practicing with the team but will be suspended for "multiple games" because of an NCAA investigation into an exaggerated theft report, the university said Friday.

Clarett, who rushed for an Ohio State freshman-record 1,237 yards last year, helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship. He scored the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime victory over defending champion Miami in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 3.

Asked if he had been assured that Clarett would return at some point this season, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said, "I haven't been assured of anything."

The university received several pages of allegations from the NCAA against Clarett Thursday and discussed them with the sophomore Friday, athletic director Andy Geiger said.

Clarett smiled and waved as he left the almost three-hour long meeting at Ohio State's St. John Arena, accompanied by his grim-faced mother, Miechelle, and three attorneys. Clarett wore shorts, running shoes, a backward San Diego Padres cap and a Bob Marley T-shirt that said, "No More Trouble" on the back.

Clarett later watched the Buckeyes scrimmage at Ohio Stadium.

The NCAA and Ohio State had been investigating Clarett's acknowledged overstatement of the value of items stolen in April from a vehicle he borrowed from a local car dealership. In a police report, he said he lost items totaling more than $10,000 when thieves broke into the 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

The suspension was only for non-academic allegations. A 10-person university panel probing charges of academic fraud involving Clarett is a separate investigation from that which led to his suspension Friday.

"Our next step is to make a recommendation to the NCAA concerning the length of Maurice's suspension," Geiger said. "Then, we wait for their reply."

Clarett was not available to comment.

"I'm just excited to see his face and to see him smile a little bit and to see how anxious Maurice is to be back with his guys," Tressel said.

Tressel added that Clarett had asked him if he could return to practice today.

"I said, 'Well, you'd be alone, because we're giving the guys the day off,' " Tressel said.

Ohio State's action allows a suspended Clarett to return to the team and practice, even though he was not permitted to practice with the team when he was eligible and not suspended. He missed Ohio State's first 23 days of practice.

The second-ranked Buckeyes open the season Aug. 30 against No. 17 Washington.

Kay Hawes, an NCAA spokeswoman, said the NCAA doesn't have the authority to suspend Clarett and it is up to Ohio State to determine his eligibility.

Clarett remains on scholarship. Classes resume Sept. 24.

There had been speculation that, if his penalty were too severe, Clarett might be tempted to forgo the remainder of his collegiate eligibility and either play in the Canadian Football League or challenge the NFL rule that prevents players from joining the league before they have been out of high school three years.

Geiger said he felt Clarett would be on the field for the Buckeyes again. Asked if he thought he would return this year, Geiger said, "I don't know that."

After the NCAA began looking into the exaggerated theft report from April, Tressel and Geiger said they would hold Clarett out of team activities "until and unless" his eligibility matters were resolved.

Clarett, 19, is majoring in family resource management.

The 6-foot, 230-pound tailback scored 18 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes went 14-0 and won their first national championship in 34 years.

Days before the Fiesta Bowl, Clarett ripped school officials for not approving emergency financial aid to fly from Phoenix back to his hometown of Youngstown for a friend's funeral. He then accused officials of lying when they said he had not filed the paperwork.

Geiger said Ohio State was not in jeopardy of losing its national championship. He said no institutional penalties or sanctions were being discussed.

Tressel said he felt a sense of guilt that one of his players had made mistakes.

"Absolutely," he said. "Anyone who feels strongly about what they do, when it doesn't go as well as they would like it, if you don't feel bad about it then shame on you."

The Clarett saga: A review

A timeline of key events surrounding Ohio State's Maurice Clarett:

January 2001: Maurice Clarett commits to Ohio State to play college football.

December: Is named the Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football.

January 2002: Begins classes at Ohio State after graduating early.

Aug. 20: Clarett is listed as the starter at running back, the first time a freshman has opened as the starter at the position since 1943.

Aug. 24: Clarett rushes for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 rout of Texas Tech in the Pigskin Classic.

Sept. 17: Undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

Oct. 16: In a cover story in ESPN The Magazine, Clarett says he has thought about leaving college early for the NFL.

Nov. 23: Rushes for 119 yards on 20 carries in a 14-9 win over Michigan that boosts the Buckeyes into a Fiesta Bowl showdown with Miami.

Jan. 3, 2003: Dives into the end zone on a 5-yard run, providing the winning score in a 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami to give Ohio State its first national title in 34 years.

July 12: The New York Times quotes a teaching assistant at Ohio State who says Clarett received "preferential treatment." She says he walked out of a midterm exam but ended up passing the class after the professor gave him an oral exam.

July 29: Ohio State confirms that the NCAA is investigating Clarett's claim that more than $10,000 in clothing, CDs, cash and stereo equipment was stolen in April from a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Clarett had borrowed from a local dealership. Clarett's attorney, Scott Schiff, later acknowledges many of the items belonged to the dealer, not Clarett, and that Clarett exaggerated the value of some items. Ohio State says Clarett will be held out of team activities "until and unless" his eligibility matters have been resolved.

Aug. 22: Ohio State says Clarett probably will serve a multigame suspension, upon approval by the NCAA, but will be allowed to resume practicing with the team.

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