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Ex-OSU teaching assistant meets with NCAA officials

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A former Ohio State teaching assistant who charged that star tailback Maurice Clarett received preferential academic treatment met for more than two hours with NCAA officials and a university committee.

''They were concerned about test scores, about cheating in the classroom, things like that,'' said Norma C. McGill, a teaching assistant in Clarett's African-American and African Studies class last fall.

During the meeting on Wednesday, McGill was shown test scores from the class, which she said had been altered since she left the school.

The meeting took place at a downtown hotel in Lexington, McGill's hometown, where she returned after leaving Ohio State during the week of final exams last fall.

Later in the day, coach Jim Tressel said Clarett probably wouldn't play in the season opener Aug. 30 against Washington because he hadn't been practicing with the team.

Clarett, considered by many to be an early candidate for the Heisman Trophy, has been held out of all of Ohio State's team functions, including preseason practices, until questions about his eligibility are resolved.

He has appeared at several Ohio State practices, running sprints by himself or watching from the sidelines.

''I would doubt it,'' Tressel said after a kicking scrimmage when asked if Clarett would be in the opening-game lineup. ''We've had what, 19 or 20 practices? There will be some guys, along with Maurice, perhaps we may not have'' available for the opener.

''I hope it will heat up,'' McGill said of the investigation. ''I was hoping that the NCAA would investigate and see what's going on at OSU with the football team, and the academics at OSU would be investigated, that a panel would be set up and they would see what departments are actually assisting students and student-athletes in getting their grades, not just the African-American Studies Department.''

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns last year as Ohio State went 14-0 and won its first national championship in 34 years.

Mark Jones, the NCAA's director of enforcement, did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Jones, two other NCAA officials, members of Ohio State's investigative panel and a university lawyer met with McGill.

McGill has charged that Clarett walked out of a midterm exam last fall and ended up passing the entry-level course after professor Paulette Pierce provided him with an oral exam. McGill said that Clarett was the only person of the more than 90 students taking the class who received an oral exam.

McGill has alleged that other athletes sat together and copied answers during three quizzes in the class and that Clarett told her and Pierce that tutors gave answers to players.

McGill said Wednesday that during the meeting with the NCAA and Ohio State's panel, she was also asked about wide-receiver/cornerback Chris Gamble, linebacker E.J. Underwood and graduated wide-receiver Chris Vance.

Tressel said Wednesday that he knew of no inquiries by the NCAA about Gamble, Underwood or Vance.

McGill went to The New York Times with her concerns and a story based on her accusations was published in July. She declined to meet with the Ohio State panel formed to investigate charges in the article.

In the article, Pierce said of Clarett, ''I don't think, at one point in the class, he was trying. When I started working more closely with Maurice, and paying more attention to him, he started to learn more.''

Clarett could not be reached for comment Wednesday because he has an unlisted phone number.

Ohio State spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk said the university was conducting the ''most thorough investigation possible. We established a committee of highly regarded and ethical faculty expressly for that purpose.''

The NCAA also is investigating Clarett's finances, including a police report he filed claiming stereo equipment, cash, clothing and CDs valued at more than $10,000 were stolen from a car he had on loan from a local dealership. Clarett later admitted he had exaggerated the value of what was stolen.

The sophomore-to-be from Youngstown has apologized for embarrassing Ohio State.

McGill said she was hoping her role in the controversy was over, although the NCAA told her they would remain in contact with her.

''I'm tired of the story,'' she said.