Clarett suspended for 2003 season

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio Maurice Clarett was suspended for the season Wednesday for violating NCAA rules, tarnishing Ohio State's national title and clouding the future of one of the nation's most talented running backs.

Clarett was punished because the school determined he accepted thousands of dollars in improper benefits and then lied to NCAA and school investigators.

''This is a sad day,'' Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said as he announced the penalty.

Even though the infractions date back to 2002, the school is not in jeopardy of having its national title stripped.

Clarett will remain on scholarship this school year. His attorney, Scott Schiff, wouldn't speculate if Clarett's Ohio State career was over.

''He's considering his options right now,'' Schiff said.

Clarett had been suspended from the team while the NCAA and Ohio State investigated his finances. Ohio State has been working for more than two weeks on a response to ''several pages'' of allegations sent by the NCAA to the university.

Geiger said Clarett was guilty of 14 violations of the ethical-conduct bylaw and two violations of receiving preferential treatment or benefits because he is an athlete.

Geiger said before each season Ohio State players are presented a copy of NCAA Bylaw 10 which deals with ethical conduct and not lying to investigators.

''You play by the rules, you live by the rules,'' Geiger said.

Geiger said Clarett would be required to make a donation to a charity of his choice equal to the amount he received in benefits, which Geiger termed as ''thousands of dollars,'' if he wants to be reinstated.

Ohio State can appeal for Clarett's reinstatement after the year suspension is complete.

''We hope the NCAA considers a suspension for this season to be sufficient,'' Geiger said. ''More importantly, we hope that Maurice will remain in school to pursue his degree, and that conditions will warrant our application for reinstatement to play Buckeye football next season.''

If Clarett transfers, the NCAA requires the new school to declare him ineligible, then seek his reinstatement through the NCAA. He would have to sit out a year in addition to any suspension or ineligibility handed down by the NCAA in order to play at another Division I-A school.

Clarett could play immediately in a smaller division after he is reinstated.

Schiff said he was troubled that Clarett is not permitted to appeal the NCAA penalties. The association's rules only permit a school to appeal.

''The most important thing I think is that the inherent problem with the NCAA procedures is the lack of due process and the lack of any procedure for the student-athlete himself to appeal the NCAA findings,'' Schiff said.

Clarett, a sophomore, could also try to go to the NFL and challenge the rule that requires players to wait three years after high school to enter the draft or leave for the Canadian Football League.

Geiger said Clarett accepted some benefits during his freshman year before Ohio State won the national title in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. Geiger said the NCAA had not determined that the school could be blamed for the violations, or that the bowl victory was in jeopardy.

Because the NCAA is not in charge of the bowl system, it does not have the power to strip a school of a national title.

''If the university was unaware or uninvolved, then the university is not culpable,'' Geiger said.

Clarett's final carry for the Buckeyes last season ranks among the most memorable in school history. He scored on a 5-yard run in the second overtime to give Ohio State a 31-24 victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl and its first national championship in 34 years.

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records last season with 1,237 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Clarett's suspension was ''very distressing because I happen to think that ... the sky's the limit as to what he can be.''

Tressel said he had spent more time with Clarett than any other Ohio State player the last two years.

''The question would be could I have spent more time with him, could I have done a better job in some areas,'' Tressel said. ''Those are things I think about often ... perhaps I didn't do as well as I could have done.''

Clarett, his mother and Schiff met with Geiger earlier Wednesday before the suspension was announced. After the meeting, Michelle Clarett was asked if her son was considering transferring.

''Nothing has been decided if we go, if we stay, if we dance or not,'' Michelle Clarett said.

Clarett's mother did not return a phone message seeking comment on the suspension.

''It's very difficult on them,'' said former NFL star Jim Brown, who spoke to the Claretts after the meeting. ''They're torn between so many emotions. Really, just trying to follow the process, do the right thing and weigh their options.''

Tressel said he would not stand in the way and would recommend that the university grant Clarett a release from his scholarship if Clarett asked for one.

Clarett was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor falsification for lying about items stolen from his car. If convicted, Clarett would face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but probably would get probation.

Unrelated to the suspension, Clarett also is being investigated by an Ohio State panel looking into allegations of academic improprieties involving athletes.

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