Buckeyes AD says it's unlikely Clarett will return this sesaon
Posted: Tuesday September 2, 2003 3:19PM; Updated: Tuesday September 2, 2003 7:50PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Tuesday night that he doubted star tailback Maurice Clarett would return to the defending national champions this season.
"I'm not optimistic about any number of games at this point," Geiger said.
Earlier in the day, coach Jim Tressel said Clarett would no longer practice with the team until questions about his eligibility are answered -- an abrupt reversal from 10 days earlier when he was allowed to work out with the Buckeyes.
For the first time, Tressel said Clarett would miss much of the season.
"It appears ... the suspension is going to be significant. It's going to be long," Tressel said.
On Aug. 22, Tressel and Geiger announced Clarett's suspension from the team. However, they said Clarett would be permitted to practice with the Buckeyes while the NCAA and an Ohio State panel looked into off-the-field problems and charges of academic fraud.
The sophomore tailback watched Saturday night's 28-9 victory over Washington while standing on the team bench, frequently waving a towel to incite the crowd.
Geiger said Clarett was suspended for multiple games because he misled investigators, a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10 that deals with ethical behavior by student-athletes.
"We put great stock, as does the NCAA, in forthrightness and straightforward answers to questions that are bathed in truth. We have yet to get there, which is distressing," Geiger said Tuesday.
Geiger also said Clarett violated NCAA's Bylaw 12, which deals with amateurism, "improper benefits and all those kind of things."
Ohio State officials are currently in the process of responding to several pages of NCAA allegations dealing with Clarett. Geiger said the response could come as early as Wednesday, although he was troubled because the investigation kept uncovering new problems.
Clarett set Ohio State freshman records by rushing for 1,237 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes went 14-0.
Clarett practiced with the team last week, wearing a Washington jersey and mimicking Huskies' running back Rich Alexis while running plays against Ohio State's first-team defense.
He did not work out with the team during preseason camp because of the probes.
Tight end Ben Hartsock said Tressel and Ohio State officials had been very patient with Clarett during the investigation, but the time had come for the team to move forward.
"There's a point when being patient with an individual starts to be detrimental to the team," Hartsock said.
Tressel said he arrived at the decision to hold Clarett out of practice after meeting with his coaching staff.
"The decision I talked about with some of our staff here just this morning was that until we get a definitive decision there I don't think I'm going to have him practice," Tressel said Tuesday.
Asked how Clarett reacted, Tressel said, "I'm sure he was disappointed because people want to be a part of the group. But that's what we're going to do right now."
The third-year coach said he made the decision to hold Clarett out of practice.
"Just a coaching decision, kind of like, 'Why did you run it on third and six,"' he said. "I think that's what's best to right now. I don't think it would be appropriate to talk about it beyond that."
He declined further comment. As he was leaving the large banquet room where he holds his weekly news conference, a reporter asked him what had changed from 10 days ago to cause him to change his mind.
"I guess the only thing constant is change," he said as he ducked into a side room.