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Ohio State Says Clarett Can Leave

Tressel is ready to cut ties as the star running back faces a misdemeanor charge of lying to police.

September 10, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

On the day he was charged with lying to police, it appeared ever more likely that suspended running back Maurice Clarett had carried a football for the last time at Ohio State.

Clarett was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor falsification about the value of items stolen from a car he was driving in April and, if convicted, could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Jail time is unlikely, according to Scott Varner, a spokesman for the city attorney's office in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said during a conference call with reporters that he didn't expect Clarett to play for the Buckeyes this season and would agree to any request by the sophomore star to be released from his scholarship.

Clarett, under investigation by the NCAA for a possible violation regarding extra benefits, would then be cleared to transfer to another Division I-A school, but would have to sit out one season, plus any still-to-be-determined NCAA suspension, before regaining his eligibility. He could transfer to a Division I-AA, II or III school without missing a season, although any NCAA suspension would still be in effect.

Doug Williams, coach at Division I-AA Grambling State in Louisiana, said he would welcome a player of Clarett's caliber, although he was careful to point out that the player would have to contact him first so Grambling could not be charged with tampering.

Clarett is not eligible for the NFL draft until 2005, although he has considered challenging the NFL's rule that requires players to wait three years after their high school graduation to become eligible.

"We are prepared to vigorously defend our rule," said Greg Aiello, NFL vice president of public relations.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue suggested recently that Clarett would be better off playing a season in the Canadian Football League.

Alan C. Milstein, the Clarett family's attorney, did not return a phone call from The Times seeking comment but told Associated Press he couldn't say whether Clarett had played his final game for Ohio State.

"I think that's up to Ohio State," he said.

Tressel seemed more certain.

"The coaching staff and the team are resolved to the fact that we don't have him and won't have him," Tressel said. "We have been trying to put every ounce of our energy and thoughts into preparing for Washington, San Diego [State] and North Carolina State."

Asked whether he believed Clarett should transfer, Tressel said, "I think that he needs to make, along with his family, whatever decision he thinks is best for him."

When asked whether Clarett had been around the team since its season-opening victory over Washington, Tressel said, "I haven't seen him."

Last season, Clarett gained 1,237 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, both school records for a freshman. He also scored what proved to be the winning touchdown for the Buckeyes in their national championship victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

Ohio State suspended Clarett indefinitely last month after he'd admitted making false statements to police about the value of cash, clothes and stereo equipment stolen from a vehicle he had borrowed from a Columbus car dealer. Clarett initially said the value of the stolen items was more than $10,000. He has until Oct. 10 to enter a plea.

A Cleveland television station reported Monday night that Clarett had received "extra benefits worth thousands of dollars."

Ohio State has been preparing a response to "several pages" of allegations sent to the school by the NCAA. In addition, the school has been looking into allegations of academic fraud involving a number of athletes, reportedly including Clarett.

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Staff writer Lonnie White and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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