Ohio State’s Clarett starts practice

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 27, 2003

COLUMBUS -- While suspended tailback Maurice Clarett went through his paces in the stifling heat at Ohio State's practice Tuesday, university officials worked in an air-conditioned office on a response to the NCAA's allegations of financial misdeeds by the sophomore.

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel announced earlier in the day that the biggest crowd Clarett will play in front of for a while was the assortment of reporters, fans and hangers-on who stared at his every move.

Tressel said Clarett would not be in uniform for the defending national champion Buckeyes' opener Saturday night against Washington.

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''The only people who will dress for the game are the ones who will be eligible to play in it,'' Tressel said.

Clarett jogged through high humidity and temperatures in the 90s at Woody Hayes Athletic Center, snagging passes thrown by running backs coach Tim Spencer and occasionally chatting with teammates.

Instead of his usual No. 13 jersey, he wore a white jersey with a purple No. 24 on the front -- so he could mimic Washington tailback Rich Alexis later in the scout-team workout against Ohio State's defense.

Clarett was suspended for ''multiple games'' last Friday by Ohio State at the same time he was permitted to rejoin the team for practices. He had not been working out with the Buckeyes while his eligibility was being investigated by the NCAA and an Ohio State academic panel.

Athletic director Andy Geiger said last week that he hoped to have a response to the NCAA allegations on Monday or Tuesday. But Ohio State spokesman Steve Snapp said the response was not completed.

Asked when it might be sent to the NCAA, he said, ''They're working on it.''

In the response, Ohio State will propose a penalty that the NCAA can accept or refuse. The two sides would then negotiate how long Clarett will watch games from the sidelines.

Tressel said he knew nothing about progress on the response to the NCAA. He said he was busy working 16 to 17 hours a day to prepare for Washington.

''I'm assuming there'll be that moment when we sit down and talk about that but I don't know that I'm going to be a big part of lots of discussions because there are big tasks for me right now,'' he said.

Geiger did not return a phone call requesting comment Tuesday. Clarett came onto the field from a side gate and did not speak with reporters.

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 18 touchdowns last season -- both records for an Ohio State freshman.

The NCAA is looking into exaggerated claims after his car was broken into in April. The car, a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, had been borrowed from a local used-car dealership. Clarett claimed that he lost more than $10,000 in the theft, including $800 in cash, 300 CDs, clothing and stereo equipment. He later admitted that he had inflated the values on the police report.

The 10-person Ohio State panel looking into charges of preferential academic treatment for athletes has not completed its investigation.

Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said Clarett appreciates being a part of the team again. Clarett participated in his first practice on Monday.

''I spoke with him a number of times when he wasn't there with us during the preseason camp and you could tell he was frustrated, that he wanted to be out there on the field,'' Krenzel said. ''He missed his teammates and he missed hanging around and having a good time. In that respect he's definitely glad to be back.''