Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Daugherty: Clarett epitomizes stud-athlete, not student-athlete

Maurice Clarett's father says Ohio State will suspend his son for six football games, for the crimes of preferential treatment in a class and lying to cops about the value of items stolen from a car Maurice had borrowed from a local dealer.

Tell us we're missing something here. Tell us Clarett masterminded a cheating scandal or put a blow-up, No. 13 doll in his assigned seat the entire semester. Tell us that along with the $10,000 Clarett reported missing from the car, there was a cocker spaniel in the back seat and the windows were rolled up.

Tell us something.

Because what we've got now is a clear case of Square Peg Disease. SPD is just about unique to big-time college sports. Symptoms arise when the NCAA tries to jam a jock like Clarett (extremely talented, non-student Square Peg) into its big, hypocritical Round Hole.

Here is what Maurice Clarett should do, but won't:

Sue the NFL for restraint of trade.

Here is what he could do, but probably won't: Bolt to the Canadian Football League, where a kid's ability to earn a living in his chosen field is not encumbered.

Here is what Clarett likely will do: Take the six games, or whatever it is, and eat it. Let's hope Maurice is in great shape upon his return. It's going to be hard, carrying the football and that boulder on his shoulder.

Has there ever been a star quasi-amateur jock who hated college more than Maurice Clarett? Has there ever existed a player who so thoroughly turned the NCAA's pompous, self-righteous idea of "student-athlete" so squarely on its head? Clarett is a stud-athlete, not a student-athlete.

Clarett doesn't want to be at OSU. He has never wanted to be at OSU. He doesn't care a thing about the place, other than as a vehicle capable of driving him to the NFL.

The only difference between Clarett and hundreds of his Division I-A brethren is that he's the best player on the defending national champion football team, and he's candidly outspoken in his beliefs.

Yet, there he is, taking up space in classes for which he has no use - a space someone more deserving and serious might otherwise occupy - just to perpetuate the NCAA's myth.

Here's what else should happen, but never will: Maurice Clarett should be allowed to major in his sport.

If we're going to perpetuate the hypocrisy, could we at least have a kid or two benefit? Teach him life skills, things that are relevant to what he will do when he grows up. Give him coaching classes. Give him a simple accounting course, so agents and his "posse'' can't swindle him when he makes his millions.

Expose him to health classes and a human anatomy lesson, so when someone tells him he has a "stinger" he'll know it's not a mosquito bite, but rather a serious hit to his spine. Give him classes he might actually find relevant.

Should Clarett be punished for what he did? Sure. In one year, he has already shown an NFL superstar's sense of entitlement. Worse, he's good friends with fellow Ohioan LeBron James and knows well what the NFL's rules could be costing him.

But Clarett shouldn't be a college student, at least not by today's definition. He should be allowed to attend college and represent the Buckeyes on the football field. He should be seen as a paid student. He shouldn't be missing half a season for driving a loaned 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo.

"I think the NFL rule is challenge-able," local sports agent Richard Katz said. "Somebody can beat it. But the reality is, the NFL is going to engage in litigation and it's going to take several years in court. By that time, (Clarett) will be eligible anyway."

So Clarett is stuck with the unappealing choice of bolting for the CFL for two years, where he'd likely make about $100,000 Canadian, or sucking it up and pretending he likes being where he is.

For six games, or whatever, nobody's interests get served. Does that make sense to anyone? Cut the hypocrisy, allow the kid to major in football, treat him like the semi-pro he is, allow him the Monte Carlo and let's move on.


E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com

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