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Clarett facing multi-game suspension

Star Buckeye running back will be allowed to return to practice

Posted: Friday August 22, 2003 8:43PM; Updated: Friday August 22, 2003 8:53PM
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Maurice Clarett and his mother, Michelle, leave a meeting with NCAA and OSU officials Friday.
AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- 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 on 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 on Thursday and discussed them with the sophomore on Friday, athletic director Andy Geiger said.

Clarett smiled and waved as he left 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 backwards 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 completely separate and distinct investigation from that which led to his suspension on Friday.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel

College football players get hurt, arrested or suspended on a regular basis. Rarely, however, does such an occurrence prompt television stations to interrupt regular programming, as those in Columbus, Ohio, did Friday for Maurice Clarett.

That alone speaks to the magnitude of this story, both for Ohio State and the rest of the country. And we didn't even find out exactly how long he's going to be out.

Buckeyes fans are clamoring to know when, if ever, they'll get to see their hero suit up again. Big Ten fans -- as well as those of non-conference foes Washington and N.C. State -- want to know whether their defenses will have to face the guy. And observers everywhere are wondering if Clarett will become that much-anticipated guy who finally challenges the NFL's three-year waiting period.

FULL STORY

"Our next step is to make a recommendation to the NCAA concerning the length of Maurice's suspension," he 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 on Saturday.

"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 preseason 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.

Telephone messages were left seeking comment Friday at the Youngstown home of Clarett's mother and the office of his Columbus attorney, Scott Schiff.

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 which 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 proper 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."

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